The ECOWAS Commission has charged youth in the West African region to prime themselves to be useful partners in the drive to holistically implement conflict prevention and mediation initiatives aimed at silencing the guns. The timely call was given at the two-day Workshop on: Support for the Implementation of youth-led Conflict Prevention, Mediation and Silencing the Guns in ECOWAS Member States which began on the 11th of September, 2023 in Cotonou, Republic of Benin.
The ECOWAS Commission has within its confines, various peacebuilding and peacekeeping normative frameworks, instruments and programmes with which it has actively engaged stakeholders in various strata of society over the years. But the dynamics of the times now calls for more inclusion and innovative peacebuilding strategies from the active population to which the youth belong.
Speaking on behalf of the Directorate of Political Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission during the opening of the Workshop, the Head of Division, Mediation and Coordination of Regional Political Affairs Dr. Onyinye Onwuka reminded participants of the upswing of conflicts and security challenges plaguing the ECOWAS region, stating further that systematic, sustainable action by all stakeholders including the youth is now needed in order to arrest the situation.
Noting that the youth constitute a significant proportion of the population, she restated the ECOWAS Commission’s commitment to the release of youth energies and ideas, while their resilience and innovations can play a vital role in promoting peace, preventing conflicts, and thus silencing the guns banging and booming again, threatening the stability of the region.
Declaring the Workshop open earlier, the ECOWAS Special Representative in Benin, Ambassador Amadou Diongue, represented by Mr. Mamadu Konate, agreed that the huge potential of youth for peacebuilding has often been untapped. Noting that their voices have been marginalized in decision-making processes, he stressed the need to take into account the voices of young while training them to make positive contributions to silencing the guns.
On his part, the Manager, ECOWAS Peace Fund Mr. Dieudonne Nikiema pledged the continuous support for all peace and security initiatives by the funding arrangements domiciled in ECOWAS. He thereafter presented a document-Peace Fund and the Nexus of Development and Peace as well as the template through funding can be accessed by various youth development associations.
The workshop also examined the various national, regional and global extant laws, declarations and instruments which constitute fundamental building blocks for youth development and exertions. A remarkable highlight of the activity included lessons learnt from the documentary- The Imam and the Pastor narrated by Pastor James Movel Wuye and Imam Ashafa Muhammad Nurayn who are twin executives of the Interfaith Mediation Centre, based in Kaduna, Nigeria.
The workshop brought together representatives of youth organizations and selected young actors from Member States, inter-faith experts who are working on thematic areas relating to peace and security, as well as ECOWAS Commission officials led by Programme Officer Conflict Prevention Mr. Constant Gnacadja who stressed the need for strong collaboration through a network of peace actors as the region transforms into an ECOWAS of peoples rather than of states. (ECOWAS)