Benin Hosts ECOWAS Forum on Citizen Participation and Regional Integration

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Cedeao Ouverture
Cedeao Ouverture

The ECOWAS Representation in Benin and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) recently co-hosted a pivotal event titled “Multi-stakeholder Dialogue for a More Active Citizen Participation in the Full Realisation of the ECOWAS of Peoples.” This forum, held at the Idriss Déby ITNO auditorium of the University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC) on May 30-31, 2024, marked the 49th anniversary of ECOWAS in Benin.

The primary objective of the forum was to foster multi-stakeholder dialogue aimed at enhancing citizen engagement to transform ECOWAS into a people-centered organization. Key goals included educating participants on regional integration through ECOWAS’ objectives and achievements, countering misinformation about ECOWAS, addressing institutional crises, and promoting a sense of community citizenship.

Over two days, the forum convened a diverse array of stakeholders, including Beninese authorities, Members of Parliament, ECOWAS diplomatic representatives in Benin, civil society leaders, regional integration experts from across West Africa, ECOWAS community representatives residing in Benin, students, and ECOWAS citizens. Additionally, various ECOWAS agencies and institutions such as WAHO, the Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food, and the West African Power Pool, among others, participated actively.

High-profile addresses and contributions were made by Ambassador Amadou DIONGUE, the Resident Representative; Professor Félicien AVLESSI, Rector of UAC; Chief Uneke OKEREKE, 1st Vice-President of UN-ECOWAS; H.E. Mr. Sidu N. TIGGI, Acting Chargé d’affaires of Nigeria to Benin; and Mrs. MASSIM-OUALI AFFO Alice, Deputy Secretary General. The inaugural lecture by Pr Nassirou BAKO-ARIFARI, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and ECOWAS Parliament representative for Benin, set the tone with a critical reflection on “ECOWAS of States and Peoples: A Construction Site at a Crossroads.”

Benin Hosts ECOWAS Forum on Citizen Participation and Regional Integration
Benin Hosts ECOWAS Forum on Citizen Participation and Regional Integration

The forum structured its discussions around four main themes: grassroots perceptions of ECOWAS, institutional architecture and governance, ECOWAS achievements and future prospects, and emerging threats to peace and security. These sessions culminated in a brainstorming segment aimed at generating actionable solutions.

Throughout the forum, participants expressed surprise and enthusiasm upon discovering the breadth of ECOWAS projects and programs affecting their daily lives in areas such as public health, agriculture, food security, energy, and infrastructure. This discovery prompted calls for significant reforms to bolster ECOWAS’ efficiency and its capacity to tackle regional challenges effectively.

The event underscored the critical role of informed citizen engagement in advancing ECOWAS’ mandate and highlighted the need for continued dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders to realize the aspirations of a unified West African community.

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