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Further Hope for Peace in Our Sub-region

Jul 4, 2008, 5:00 AM

Yesterday marked the conclusion of the four-day meeting of the ECOWAS 'Zonal Strategic Planning Meeting'. The meeting was held at the Jerma Beach Hotel, with all member states present.

The main objective of the meeting was to "strategise and plan on operationalising the bottom-up approach to conflict prevention and peace-building in our sub-region". Within this wide ambit, the meeting was to develop specific strategies and action plans for the promotion of dialogue and conflict resolution in West Africa's troubled spots, as well as employing the interventions of civil society organisations.

It is a widely held conviction that without the participation of civil society, intra-regional peace cannot be easily achieved or any lasting peace expected.

According to the strategic plan, the participatory approach to conflict prevention, management or resolution should more decisively include civil society and should replace the top-bottom approach of heads of government and institutions trying, often times ineffectually, to resolve problems that basically and inextricably require the involvement and co-operation of civilian populations.

It is for this oversight or omission in the past that the sub-region has witnessed inordinately protracted armed conflicts in the sister states of Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cassamance.

While the meeting may have adopted some pertinent strategic plans and re-orientations, it is the legitimate expectation of civil society everywhere in the sub-region that these plans and orientations that were evolved here in Banjul would be implemented in the short rather than the long term.

We say this because our inter-governmental organisations, including ECOWAS, are getting very well known for a lot of talk and little implementation. The same goes for IGO-sponsored bodies and programmes. Decisions and resolutions have, broadly speaking, become more declarations of intent than results to be put into action. Governments in particular have been known to reach agreements at different fora and then act as if the agreements never existed.

Sometimes they seem to be taking decisions at meetings only to return home to create the conditions for their non-implementation. One method is to file away conference dossiers and get back to nationalistic preoccupations. This is what seems to be the unhappy scenario of co-operation initiatives in our sub-region. This is exactly what the population does not want to see happen to the strategic plan and new orientations for security, conflict prevention and peace-building in our region as designed and agreed here in Banjul.

Furthermore, in seriously implementing the plan, the four Zonal bureaux responsible for its co-ordination should ensure close collaboration with all the existing and potential local networks and collaborators for peace.

This will have the effect of replacing duplication and dissipation of effects with a mutually informed plan of action.

Now that a plan has been devised, let it serve as an opportunity to translate intentions and aspirations into reality. Let it be translated into action because action not only speaks louder than words, it is also what all great achievements are built on.