The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel (WGWYPS-WAS) have jointly called on leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for an inclusive resolution to the current crises in West Africa and the Sahel.
According to the two organizations, women and youth are the most affected in times of conflict and their involvement in the process to bring lasting peace in the sub-region is paramount.
This was contained in a Communiqué issued by the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel after a weeklong consultative workshop held in Accra from 18 to 22 September 2023.
The program under the theme “Unconstitutional seizure of power and transition in the Sahel region”, attracted over 121 participants both in-person and online from across the ECOWAS and Sahel states.
Madam Theodora Williams Anti, Executive Director of the Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA) read the English version of the Communiqué on behalf of the Anglophone West Africa, while Madam Mariam Sylla of Guinea read the French on behalf of the Francophone and the Sahel.
The five-day consultative program was aimed at strengthening the understanding and coordination of action in the implementation and follow-up of UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000), 2250 (2015), and subsequent ones on women, youth, peace, and security.
The communiqué recommended to the governments of the ECOWAS and the Sahel states to among others set up inclusive mechanisms with gender quotas to strengthen the political participation of women and young people in decision-making bodies.
It also charged the ECOWAS and the Sahel states to consider women and young people’s leadership and civic commitment in the development of national and regional strategies on peace and security, strengthen the capacities of women and young people to participate in peace processes and develop conflict prevention and management mechanisms at technical and diplomatic levels, where women and youth play a key role.
The Women Working Group also highlighted the Niger crisis and called on leaders in the West Africa and Sahel to take steps with the keen involvement of women, young people to bring peace and political stability.
“We recommend for the governments and state institutions to include women and youth in pre-, during, and post-election activities, adopt inclusive electoral laws (parity), adopt positive discrimination laws to encourage women’s participation in mediation, and set up a pool of trained women who could act as mediators to prevent the worsening of situations”.
“The states and their institutions should develop appropriate adaptation strategies on climate change in the face of dwindling resources, to mitigate conflict related conflicts, strengthen the role of women and young people in preserving resources and combating climate change and develop cross-border synergy against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism,” portions of the communiqué read.
It added that “The officials recalled that UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) was the first to highlight the valuable role and essential contribution of women to peace and sustainable stability, recognizing that “women matter for peace”.
“Similarly, resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace, and security recognizes the positive contribution of young people to peace and sustainable development in their communities, humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction.”
“Two days of consultations with the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel demonstrate that the Group remains deeply concerned about the unconstitutional seizures of power and the absence of women and young people from peace efforts in West Africa and the Sahel. Between 18 and 19 September 2023, at least 46 recommendations were made by the “Working Group to Governments, ECOWAS, civil society, and the United Nations and partners, on concrete actions they should consider to ensure that women and youth leaders and mediators contribute to political dialogues, mediation, and other peace efforts in the region.
“Of great concern to the Working Group is the situation in Niger, particularly the adverse socio-economic and political effects of the transition. The ECOWAS economic sanctions on Niger, several panelists, and representatives from Niger report, are worsening the lives of Nigerien women, children, and youth. Beyond Niger, reports were also received of spill-over effects of the sanctions on neighboring countries. Thus, whilst the Working Group’s recommendations span across the short, medium, and long term, it calls on ECOWAS and all Heads of State in West Africa and the Sahel to support an immediate reversal of economic sanctions on Niger, and the reinstitution of political dialogue and mediation efforts, with women and young people centrally placed in this process.
“To better articulate its stance and aspirations on the matter, the Working Group shall adopt a Position Statement on unconstitutional seizures of power and the absence of women and young people from peace efforts in West Africa and the Sahel, at the end of the Annual Meeting. Furthermore, the Working Group is hereby seized to establish as soon as possible, The West Africa and Sahel Women and Youth “Rapid Response Team.”
“The main task of the Rapid Response Team will be to initiate rapid interventions that enable both appropriate and proportionate decisions and if deemed necessary, sanctions against a population, bearing in mind, any such consequences for women, youth and children.
“Combined, the Working Group hopes that these new developments will alleviate the lack of transparency and opportunities for the participation of women and young people in political dialogue, mediation, and decision-making in peace talks and other peace efforts in the region.”
The Women Working Group condemned the multiple coups in the sub-region, called for immediate steps to discourage the unconstitutional takeover of power, and charged democratically elected leaders to desist from changing the constitutions to entrench their stay in power while oppressing the citizens.
Mr. Pius Enam Hadzide, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO ) of the National Youth Authority (NYA) said women and youth have greater roles to play in bringing peace in conflict-prone areas and have been utilized by some countries of which the ECOWAS and the Sahel must consider. Currently, some countries experiencing social upheavals utilize women and youth as mediators and influencers. While this enhances the youth and women’s capacities, we shouldn’t wait until a crisis occurs before taking action.”
“Youth and women should actively participate in decision-making, and their opinions must be welcomed and considered,” Mr. Hadzide said.
Mr. Hadzide said to achieve our peace and security objectives, governments and state institutions must invest in education, skills development, and mentorship for women and youth as well as provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to actively contribute to peace-building and conflict prevention.
While commending WGWYPS-WAS for the efforts, the NYA CEO called on it to establish and strengthen peace committees, create youth parliaments, and National Youth Volunteer Schemes, and prioritize socialization.
On his part, the United Nations Residence Coordinator in Ghana (UNRC), Mr. Charles Abani, said the engagement of women and youth in peace and security is extremely important as identified by the Working Group.
He said the UN is working fervently in Ghana with the National Peace Council to enhance peace and also to include women’s participation in all sectors that would bring stability to the ECOWAS sub-region.
He again, called for continued efforts to identify influential women in the inclusive process of identifying issues that women could contribute to influence the decision-making process in both politics and security.
Some other key personalities and participants were the Special Advisor to the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Major General Francis Adu-Amanfoh, Ms. Francisca Atuluk, Director of Human Resources at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mr. George Amoh, Executive Secretary of the National Peace Council, among others.
At the annual meeting, some key members made remarks including Ms. Theodora Anti on behalf of the Ghana Chapter of the Working Group, Ms. Kemealo Agathe Telou who delivered a statement on behalf of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, and the Sahel, Mr. Leonardo Simão, and as the UNOWAS Regional Coordinator of the WGWYPSWAS. Ms. Francisca Atuluk also made remarks on behalf of the National Youth Authority and a solidarity message was delivered by Mr. George Amoh, the Executive Secretary of the National Peace Council in Ghana.
The keynote address was delivered by the Special Adviser to the President of Ghana on the Accra Initiative, Ambassador (Maj-Gen) Francis Adu-Amanfoh (Rtd)), and the event was officially opened by the Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Mr. Charles Abani.
Established in April 2009, the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace, and Security in West Africa and the Sahel (WGWYPS-WAS) is an inclusive platform for experience sharing, analysis, and participatory evaluation of initiatives and efforts in the West African and Sahel region for the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000), 2250 (2015) and Subsequent ones, on the involvement of women and youth in conflict prevention and peace-building mechanisms.
To further ensure its good coordination and create an open space for dialogue, a gathering is organized each year, enabling members to come together and contribute to the harmonization of regional initiatives by sharing and promoting good practices and innovative strategies in favor of the participation of women and youth in the implementation of further peace and security in the West African and Sahel region.
This year, following the recommendations of the 2022 annual meeting and subsequent discussions with members of the Working Group and partners, the annual meeting will take place in Accra, Ghana, from 18 to 22 September 2023 under the theme “Unconstitutional Take-over of Governments and Transitions in the Sahel Region.”
The 2023 annual meeting will respond to the ongoing political crisis in the Sahel by convening multistakeholder thematic panel discussions, and key recommendations from these discussions would support the development of proposals for joint regional programs. Per usual, the annual training of Working Group members, the celebration of the International Day of Peace; the 2023 review and planning of the 2024 meeting agenda, and the General Assembly of the Working Group’s representation in Ghana will also be key characteristics of this year’s event.
Send your news stories and articles to firstname.lastname@example.org or via WhatsApp +233 0543 900 732