The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), the largest peacebuilding network in Africa, has hailed the ECOWAS Commission for establishing the Early Warning System as an observation and monitoring tool for conflict prevention and decision-making.
Dr Chukwuemeka B. Eze, the Executive Director of WANEP, said the ECOWAS Early Warning System was the most advance regional economic early warning system known today in Africa.
He said the good thing about the ECOWAS Early Warning System was that it involves the ECOWAS citizens, including civil society organisations and the ECOWAS member states in the collection of information, analysis and communicating of that information, which also involves some actors from academia and research centres.
Dr Eze gave the commendation in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the side-line of a half-day sensitization workshop on the creation of Early Warning and Response Mechanism in ECOWAS member states.
The workshop, which was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission, was aimed at making a presentation of ECOWAS Early Warning and Response System to Government Officials and relevant stakeholders in the bid to establish the early warning system and mechanism and office in Ghana.
Dr Eze said having now implemented the Early Warning System for more than two decades now, ECOWAS did a review of the process and has come to realize that the link between early warning and early response needs to be established and it is important for ECOWAS member states to take the lead in providing response.
He said based on this findings, ECOWAS member states have now agreed to decentralize the early warning centres and ensure that there is a national early warning and response mechanism at the national and regional levels.
He commended the ECOWAS Commission having implemented a pilot National Early Warning and Response Centres in Liberia, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau.
He said the second phase of the programme was to scale-up it to cover other countries in the sub-region like Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Niger.
“It was a decision that was taken by the Authority of Heads of States and Governments and the idea is to have it in all the ECOWAS member states; so that the ECOWAS Regional Head Office in Abuja would only be providing coordination and where necessary provide some information that would help them in their response,” he said.
Dr Eze said there is the need to develop civil society capacity, develop state actors’ capacity to be able to manage the National Early Warning Centres; declaring that “it is a new phenomenon, looking at how you integrate state security with the human security and to ensure that there is a blend between the two”.
“So, there is a need for capacity building and the second thing is that there is a need for dedicated office space with experts who would manage the different segments of the national early warning mechanism.”
He also advocated for the integration of the activities of the National Peace Council, who already was providing response; so that they could take in information from the centre and manage the response angle.
He said it is important to work between the Ministry of the Interior, civil society groups, National Peace Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, the ECOWAS unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the early warning unit in Abuja; “so it is a whole lot of coordination effort and needs to be made to ensure that the centre works effectively”.
The purpose of establishing national early warning and response centers is to improve early warning capacity of ECOWAS and its member states, which allows them to proactively identify emerging crises and improve their response mechanisms once a crisis begins.
With national centers, ECOWAS member states can share information, implement conflict prevention, and manage crises, while protecting human security at the regional and national level.