Jennifer Brown
Tue, Sep 12, 2023 6:15 PM

West Africa Civil Society Week 2023: A Call for Democratic Governance and Peace

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West Africa Civil Society Week 2023: A Call for Democratic Governance and Peace
Civil society organizations from across West Africa and partners from East and Southern Africa gathered in Lagos, Nigeria for the first-ever West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 (WACSW23). Participants engaged in candid discussions and formulated strategies to address the challenges facing the region, including democratic recession, shrinking civic space, and recurring coups d'état. The conference emphasized the need for democratic governance and peaceful means of addressing the concerns of citizens. Resolutions were made, calling for non-military interventions, protection of civic space, and the moral authority of ECOWAS.

The West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 marked a significant milestone in the region's pursuit of democratic governance and peace. Over 100 civil society organizations from West Africa and partners from East and Southern Africa came together in Lagos, Nigeria, to deliberate on the critical issues affecting the region's democracy, peace, and prosperity. The meeting, organized by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), provided a platform for participants to share experiences, engage in candid discussions, and collectively formulate strategies and demands.

The conference took place amidst troubling times for the region, with democratic recession, growing authoritarianism, and shrinking civic space. The recent military coup in Gabon further highlighted the urgent need to address these challenges. However, the participants made it clear that coups and military interventions are not the solution to the governance issues facing West Africa. Instead, they emphasized the need for citizens' voices to be heard and for their concerns to be acknowledged and addressed peacefully and democratically.

A number of resolutions were made during the conference, reflecting the collective commitment to democratic governance and peace:

  1. Non-Military Interventions: The conference called upon the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to exercise caution and prioritize peaceful approaches in responding to governance crises. Military interventions were strongly opposed, and the restoration of constitutional order through dialogue and negotiation was advocated.
  2. Protecting Civic Space and Inclusive Development: Participants stressed the importance of protecting, strengthening, and expanding civic space at this critical juncture. Freedom of expression, association, and assembly are fundamental to a vibrant civil society, and any attempts to curtail these rights should be rejected. Governments were called upon to uphold human rights and ensure the safety of civil society actors.
  3. Moral Authority of ECOWAS: ECOWAS was urged to reassert its moral authority and regain the trust of its citizens. The operationalization of the ECOWAS Social and Economic Council (ECOSOCC) was advocated to enhance collaboration between ECOWAS and civil society.
  4. Adopting the Supplementary Protocol: The conference appealed to ECOWAS to adopt the revised supplementary protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and commit to a uniform application of its provisions in response to unconstitutional changes of government.
  5. Civil Society Solidarity: The importance of unity among civil society organizations was highlighted to amplify their impact and contributions to democracy, peace, and prosperity in the region.
  6. Amplifying Youth Agency: The conference emphasized the need to support and safeguard the engagement of young people, providing them with platforms, training, and resources. The voices and perspectives of youth are vital for a thriving civic space.
  7. Peace and Prosperity through Collaboration: Achieving lasting peace and prosperity in West Africa requires collaborative efforts involving governments, ECOWAS, and development partners. The well-being of citizens should take priority over political interests. Civil society committed to sustained engagement, collaborative action, and innovative approaches to advance these goals.
  8. Inclusive Actions for Progress: The principle of leaving no voices behind was underscored, emphasizing the importance of inclusion, particularly the involvement of youth and women, in all actions aimed at regional progress.

The West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 concluded with a renewed commitment to defending democracy, promoting peace, and ensuring prosperity in the region. The participants called upon governments, ECOWAS, and development partners to join them in their efforts. It is through collective action and a commitment to democratic governance that West Africa can overcome its challenges and build a brighter future for its citizens.

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

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