WEST AFRICA PEACE AND SECURITY INNOVATION (WAPSI) FORUM
GEN. FRANCIS A. BEHANZIN
COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, PEACE AND SECURITY
9TH MARCH 2022
His Excellency Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNOWAS
His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Former Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNOWAS,
His Excellency, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Her Excellency Samuela Isopi, Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS
Ms. Ina Hommers, Country Director, GIZ Nigeria,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Esteemed Directors and Colleagues of the ECOWAS Commission,
Distinguished Think Tank Groups and civil society partners
Distinguished Friends of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the first edition of the West Africa Peace and Security Innovation (WAPSI) Forum on the theme: “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Human Security and Governance in the ECOWAS region.”
I would like to begin by expressing my profound gratitude to the European Union and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and GIZ for the support to the operationalization of the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture over the years. Let me also take this unique opportunity to thank all the stakeholders here present for honouring our invitation to this very important forum. The Commission appreciates all the efforts and engagements undertaken by the coordination teams from ECOWAS, GIZ and the EU to ensure the first edition of the West Africa Peace and Security Innovation Forum comes to fruition. Your tenacity made this happen. This is a clear demonstration of your unwavering commitment to the cause of the promotion and sustainability of Human security in the ECOWAS region.
Excellencies, Distinguished Participants and Partners,
The ECOWAS commission since its creation over four decades ago has developed several legal frameworks on peace and security. These frameworks and protocols have informed the areas of intervention by ECOWAS’ engagements with Member States, citizens and partners vis-a-vis the roles and responsibilities of various regional stakeholders according to the political and security dynamics.
It must be noted that the operationalisation of the legal frameworks has been progressive and based on evolving challenges encountered in the region to sustain peace and development. ECOWAS from a point of view of fairness and objectivity has recorded many successes with the aim of building a resilient institution to address the myriad of challenges confronting the economic block. This notwithstanding, the peace and security landscape is transforming amid multi-layered challenges, such as governance issues, pandemic outbreaks and climate change, agro-pastoral clashes, election-related violence, violent extremism and the recent resurgence of military take-overs.
Though the evolving security landscape brings to light the apparent intractable challenges in the prevention and management of conflict in the region, it also presents opportunities for ECOWAS to recalibrate our approaches to Human Security and explore innovative and inclusive ways of building lasting and sustainable peace. This requires interventions in many areas including support for strengthening local and national governance, improving land and natural resources management, and spurring job creation among others.
Against this background the ECOWAS Commission initiated the West Africa Peace and Security Innovation (WAPSI) Forum accompanied by an annual research report on emerging topical issues which will seek to further community engagement, facilitate cutting edge research, foster knowledge sharing, and explore innovative approaches to address the emerging challenges to human security in the region.
In the course of the last two years, in the framework of the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations Project, which is co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the ECOWAS Commission organized a workshop to brainstorm on the operationalization of this knowledge exchange with diverse stakeholders. This was followed by the formation of an inter-departmental working group between the Departments of Political Affairs, Peace and Security and the Humanitarian, Social Affairs and Gender (SAG). As part of outreach engagements for the Forum, a series of activities were undertaken including, a roundtable on Public Health, Peace and Security organized in April 2021 in line with the theme of this year’s forum; and workshops exploring how technology can be leveraged for peacebuilding in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.
A key highlight of this two-day event will be the launch of the first research report of the WAPSI Forum which is the outcome of a series of engagements. The report comprehensively analyses ECOWAS frameworks on peace and security, such as the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF 2008) and provides unique insights into the efforts of the ECOWAS Commission, Member States, CSOs and citizens to address peace and security related challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also integrates in unique and diverse voices working on peace and security in the ECOWAS region from members of governments to grassroots peacebuilders and includes their experiences and perspectives into the analytical framework.
Furthermore, to adapt our strategy to the evolving situation in the region characterized by the recent resurgence of military take-overs, the agenda of the forum has been accordingly adjusted to to engage discussions on it.
It is therefore my hope that at the end of the Forum, we will come out with some strategies that will inform the Commission’s policies on disease outbreaks and their impact on human security and peace as well as recommendations that will contribute to ECOWAS engagement in restoring confidence among the citizenry on its uniqueness and vision to have a peaceful West Africa where democracy and economic development is paramount and non-negotiable.
I welcome you all to this great Forum and wish you all successful deliberations.