APN-CDD-ECOWAS Policy Dialogue on the Future of Democracy and Peace in West Africa

Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Abuja, FCT, Nigeria

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) West Africa, in collaboration with the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), organized a two-day policy dialogue on the future of democracy and peace in West Africa. The event, which took place in Abuja, Nigeria, July 27–28, 2015, brought together scholars, representatives of governments, members of the international community, civil society organizations, and media to review the current state of democracy, peace, and stability in the region. The meeting also provided a forum to examine the role of ECOWAS as well as its successes and challenges, and offered practical suggestions to consolidating democracy and peace in the future. 

Discussions were held in plenary session format, with participants representing a host of institutions, universities, and organizations across West Africa, including:

African Development Bank
African Governance Architecture of the African Union
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria
MacArthur Foundation
Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Universite Libre du Burkina Faso
University of Benin
University of Ghana
West African Civil Society Forum (WACSoF)

A full list of participants is available here.

Of those in attendance were three APN individual research grantees and one APN residential postdoctoral fellow: Dr. Dauda Garuba (2015) of the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), Abuja; Dr. Oluwatoyin O. Oluwaniyi (2013) of Redeemers University, Ede, Nigeria; Professor Oluwafunmilayo J. Para-Mallam (2013) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Nigeria; and Dr. Gbemisola Animasawun (2014) of the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. Three of the aforementioned participated in an APN panel on the linkages between knowledge and peace in West Africa, while the first was part of a separate plenary session that explored the nexus between economic conditions and conflicts in the region. Their presence at the policy dialogue underscores the APN’s commitment to promoting the visibility of African peacebuilding knowledge among global and regional centers of scholarly analysis, and making that information accessible to key policymakers and institutions in order to affect positive change on the continent. 

A keynote address was given by Dr. Remy Ajibewa of the ECOWAS Commission, representing the Office of the Commissioner Political Affairs, Peace, and Security (PAPS). He highlighted the role ECOWAS has played in promoting human security and the rule of law in West Africa, noting areas of growth and improvement as well as the need to reinforce structures for lasting peace. Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari of the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy, and Development (SCDDD), served as discussant. Of the many takeaways from the meeting, it was agreed that significant gains have been made by ECOWAS in promoting a climate of peace, democracy, development, and rule of law in the region. It was also said that the regional body will require the support of civil society organizations, and their work with local governments, to ensure the success of these measures going forward. There was also mention of the need to build stronger institutions and account for the voices of marginalized populations in peace and democratic processes. “You cannot talk about peace without talking about democracy,” commented one observer. “They are two sides of the same coin.” 

The meeting concluded with a communiqué entitled “Abuja Declaration on Democracy, Development, and Peace.” Two APN alumni—Professor Para-Mallam and Dr. Gbemisola Animasawun—were part of the team that put the communiqué together. It made several observations and called for the ECOWAS to adopt a harmonized approach to election observation and play a more active role alongside other African organizations in promoting sustainable peace. It also emphasized the need for more evidence-based research and the infiltration of that knowledge into ECOWAS’s policies and future direction.