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Wed, Sep 13, 2023 12:55 AM

Civil Society Week in West Africa 2023 Concludes with Strong Call for Democracy and Peace

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Civil Society Week in West Africa 2023 Concludes with Strong Call for Democracy and Peace
The first-ever Civil Society Week in West Africa concluded with a strong call to prioritize democracy, peace, and prosperity in the region. Participants from over 100 organizations across West Africa and partners from East and Southern Africa gathered in Lagos, Nigeria for the event. The discussions focused on the challenges posed by authoritarianism, shrinking civic space, and frequent coups in the region. The participants condemned coup attempts and emphasized the need for peaceful and democratic solutions to governance issues in the region. They also called for the protection of civic space, the reestablishment of the moral authority of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the adoption and implementation of protocols on democracy and good governance.

The inaugural Civil Society Week in West Africa, held in Lagos, Nigeria from August 29 to 31, 2023, under the auspices of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), concluded with a resounding call to prioritize democracy, peace, and prosperity in the region.

The event brought together participants from over 100 organizations across West Africa, as well as partners from East and Southern Africa. Through open discussions and the sharing of experiences, the participants collectively formulated strategies and requests to address the pressing challenges and contribute to the construction of a peaceful and prosperous West Africa.

The Civil Society Week took place against the backdrop of deepening democratic setbacks, rising authoritarianism, shrinking civic space, and increasing popular discontentment with poor governance and frequent coups in the region. During the conference, a military coup took place in Gabon, Central Africa, highlighting the relevance and urgency of addressing these challenges.

The participants recognized that West Africa is at a crossroads, with citizens increasingly protesting in response to frustrations resulting from unfulfilled democratic dividends and governance deficiencies. They categorically opposed coups and military interventions perceived as a panacea to the region's governance problems. Instead, they emphasized the importance of amplifying the voices of citizens, recognizing their legitimate concerns, and responding to them through peaceful and democratic means.

The participants, in strong terms, condemned coups and unconstitutional methods of seizing and extending power that undermine the democratic principles that the region aspires to uphold. They expressed deep concern about the troubling trend of democratic regression and reaffirmed their commitment to democratic governance, the rule of law, and transparent electoral practices as fundamental principles for sustainable development and peace.

Among the resolutions adopted during the event, the participants called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to exercise caution and prioritize peaceful solutions to power transitions in the region. They firmly stood against any ECOWAS military intervention in Niger or any other part of the region, as it could lead to destabilizing repercussions. They advocated for the restoration of constitutional order through dialogue and negotiation, in accordance with democratic principles and the interests of the people.

The participants also stressed the need to protect, strengthen, and expand civic space during this critical period, particularly by providing civil society organizations with the necessary tools to thrive and effectively contribute to democratic governance and national and sub-regional development. They rejected any attempts to restrict freedom of expression, association, and assembly, as they are fundamental to the functioning of a vibrant civil society. The governments were called upon to uphold human rights and ensure the safety of civil society actors.

Moreover, the participants urged ECOWAS to reaffirm its moral authority and regain the trust of its citizens. They emphasized the urgency of translating the slogan "ECOWAS of the people" into tangible commitment to promoting the well-being of people in West Africa. The operationalization of the ECOWAS Economic and Social Council (ECOSOCC) was advocated to strengthen collaboration between ECOWAS and civil society.

Additionally, the participants called for the adoption of the revised additional protocol on democracy and good governance by ECOWAS and the uniform implementation of its provisions in response to any unconstitutional assumption of power.

The importance of solidarity among civil society organizations was underscored, as it plays a vital role in promoting the rights and well-being of people in the region. The participants committed to sustained dialogue, collective action, and innovative approaches to advance these objectives.

To ensure meaningful inclusion and progress, the principle of "leaving no one behind" was emphasized. State and non-state actors were urged to prioritize inclusion, particularly the involvement of youth and women, in all actions aimed at advancing the region's progress.

The first Civil Society Week in West Africa provided a crucial platform for dialogue and in-depth reflection during these challenging times in the sub-region. The participants renewed their commitment to defending democracy, promoting peace, and fostering prosperity in West Africa. States, ECOWAS, and development partners were called upon to join these efforts.

Source of content: OOO News 2023-09-12 News

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