The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding’s (WANEP) 2023 General Assembly, Fellows Conference and Partners Forum is underway in Accra.
The three events are being organised from March 20 to 23, on the theme, “ECOWAS Vision 2050: Towards an Enhanced State-Citizens Relationship in West Africa.”
Whilst the Fellows Conference would facilitate deliberations around the theme, the Partners Forum would provide an opportunity for exchange of opinions between and among the WANEP current and potential partners on the state of peace and security and how WANEP was responding through its strategic plan which is now at its midterm stage.
Participants would also share new governance and partnership policies and modalities for synergy of purpose.
Dr Chukwuemeka B. Eze, the Executive Director, WANEP, said their gathering was taking place at a time of global uncertainties that requires their collectivism and unity of purpose to address existential peace, security, governance, and developmental challenges they faced.
“As we commence this conference and forum, WANEP’s view is that it will offer an opportunity for us to finetune our reflective action that adequately confront the web of conflicts with profound and wide-ranging effects to West Africa’s progressive outlook,” he said.
“As ECOWAS community citizens, we continue to contend with the link between failures of economic development, governance, and democratization on the one hand and unconstitutional Change of Government and violent conflicts on the other.”
Dr Eze said they stand at a cross road in the region when citizens especially burgeoning youth population was questioning the nature and form of liberal democratic practice as well as the role and relevance of key regional and international institutions and actors in the actualization of inclusive governance and overall wellbeing of all.
He said it was the questions that was at the fore front of the growing activism by youths including increasing bias for Unconstitutional Change of Government through military coups at a period in the regional history when they thought military coups and government had been relegated to the anal of their political past.
He said as a key regional civil society actor, WANEP was often faced with the difficulty of explaining the current realities of governance deficit, developmental challenges and peace and security gaps to citizens whose expectations and hopes for responsive governance had linearly increased in recent times.
“From the lamentations on the streets of Bawku in the Upper East region of Ghana to the cries of the market woman in Abobo, Maritime region of Togo to the expressed hopelessness of the young lads in Gamboru Ngala of Borno state in Nigeria, the issues are factual, visible, identical, and agonizing to explain,” Dr Eze said.
“What makes it more difficult is the fact that despite civil society organizations emergence as a central force in redrawing the peace and human security landscape, not much has been achieved to consolidate functional and sustainable CSOs contribution to peacebuilding making it appear as though they are enemies rather than partners in progress.”
He said, he was particularly delighted that Peacebuilding Fellows would be interrogating and addressing one of the key challenges of their time at this conference – which was the fragility of state-citizens relations.
He reiterated that the discourse was key to understanding the relationship between the ongoing debates of socio-economic failures and frequency of protests that challenge the legitimacy of state responsibility to governance across the region.
He said increasingly, many citizens feel disconnected from their elected public officials amid deteriorating living conditions and governance characterized by nepotism, unequal access to resources, inequities in social and economic development as well as non-accountability for public expenditures and resource management.
Dr Eze said the deficits were perceived as failures of governance that fueled political instability and Unconstitutional Changes of Government.
“We believe that a key ingredient to enhance the trust and confidence of citizens and the state lies with the way citizens are carried along in the conceptualization, design and implementation of state policies.”
Professor Oumar Ndongo; Board Chair of WANEP, said the Network continued to accompany ECOWAS in the decentralization of early warning and early response mechanisms through training on data collation and thematic analysis of the staff of national early warning centers as well as providing mentorship to enable them manage the early warning centers.
Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS Commission, who delivered the keynote address said the growing recourse to laws which violated human rights and undermined citizens’ capacity and responsibility to participate in governance could impede ECOWAS’ ability to attain its vision 2050.
caption : West Africa Network for Peacebuilding WANEP