The 3rd edition of the ECOWAS Forum on Education for a Culture of Peace through Intra and Inter-Religious Dialogue was held in Lomé, Togo, from 27 to 29 October 2022, under the theme: “Communities, violent extremism and social cohesion in West Africa”.
Co-organized by the ECOWAS Commission and the Togolese Republic, the Forum was held under the chairmanship of HE Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE , President of the Togolese Republic , represented by Mr. Robert DUSSEY, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional integration and Togolese Abroad, and under the triple sponsorship of Cheikh Serigne Babacar Sy Mansour, Caliph General of the Tidhianes of Senegal, His Excellency Monsignor Edward Tamba Charles, Archbishop of Freetown, and His Highness Nana Kobina Nketsia V, Paramount Chief of the Essikado Traditional Zone of Ghana.
The meeting was attended by Professor Fatou SOW SARR, Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs of ECOWAS, HE Mr. Barros Bacar BANJAI, Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Togo and HE Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, former President of the ECOWAS Commission, as Presenter of the Inaugural Conference.
Also taking part were religious and community leaders, peace and conflict resolution experts, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), technical and financial partners, young people, women’s groups and media professionals.
The main objective of the Forum was to strengthen the mechanisms of dialogue within the communities in order to cultivate mutual understanding, the spirit of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between religions, through education in the culture of peace, while highlighting the role of communities in countering violent extremism, as well as their contribution to peace and social cohesion.
The Forum took place in 4 essential phases: (1) The opening ceremony punctuated by speeches and the inaugural conference; (2) The ministerial session which made it possible to present the situation of inter-ministerial dialogue in the Member States, highlighting the role of communities and religious and customary leaders in the fight against violent extremism and their contribution to peace and social cohesion. (3) The discussion panels which were articulated around the following 3 axes: Axis 1: Communities and Resilience with the target of religious, customary, ethnic, socio-professional communities; Axis 2: Education and Prevention targeting young people, women, media; Axis 3: Communities, territories and vulnerabilities; (4) The plenaries which allowed the restitution of the work of the panels.
In her speech at the forum’s closing ceremony, Commissioner Fatou SOW/SARR “reiterated the clear will of the political authorities of the Region to emphasize crisis prevention, raising awareness among young people, that of actors in the civil society and of course political decision-makers and religious leaders”.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and Togolese Abroad, both in his opening and closing speeches, expressed his thanks to the ECOWAS Commission for having chosen his country to host such a meeting. He also reiterated “the commitment and determination of HE Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE , President of the Togolese Republic, in favor of the values of peace, harmony and mutual respect. It is through his benevolence and the interest given to the issue of social cohesion that he accepted that Togo host this important forum”.
At the end of the work, a so-called Lomé Declaration and recommendations were adopted. Among other recommendations to ECOWAS: i) Support Member States in developing National Policies for the Development of Border Areas to build the resilience of communities in the face of violent extremism; ii) Put in place a multi-stakeholder strategy (religious, women, youth) in the fight against violent extremism; iii) Strengthen the ECOWAS early warning and conflict resolution system, highlighting the contribution of communities to peace and social cohesion; etc
For the ECOWAS Commission, also taking part in the Forum under the Department of Human Development and Social Affairs (DHDSA), Prof. Abdoulaye Maga, Director of Education, Science and Culture, Dr. Raguidissida Emile, Head of Culture Division and Mrs. Aïsha USMAN, Head of Education Division, and under the Department of Political Affairs (PAPS), Peace and Security, Colonel Abdourahmane DIENG, Head of Regional Security Division and Mr. Constant Cocou GNACADA in charge of the conflict prevention program.