The African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), in collaboration with the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), University of Ghana, Legon, held a planning meeting on “Strengthening Regional Resilience Against Emerging Security Threats in West Africa.” The two-day event, which took place at Tomreik Hotel, Accra, brought together scholars, policymakers, practitioners, security personnel, and civil society activists from Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to discuss the nature and dynamics of the threats confronting the sub-region, interrogate its vulnerabilities, and identify measures and next steps required to strengthen or consolidate regional resilience against such threats.
Participants were drawn from LECIAD, the SSRC, universities, the armed forces, civil society, the African Development Bank, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).
The meeting featured an opening speech by Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, director of LECIAD, and statements of welcome by representatives of the partner organizations, Dr. Cyril Obi of the APN-SSRC, and Remi Ajibewa, representing the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security. These were followed by three thematic sessions and discussions, on the following topics: “Overview of Emerging Threats to Peace and Security in West Africa,” “Identification of Knowledge Gaps and Opportunities for Policy Engagement in West Africa’s Peace and Security,” and “Building Resilience Against Regional Security Threats.”
The discussions focused on the drivers and nature of threats to maritime security, cyber security, organized crime, democratic governance, and violent extremism, underlining how vulnerabilities in one country could affect neighboring states and the entire sub-region. Participants identified knowledge gaps and strategies for building regional resilience. There was broad consensus on the need to build a regional platform to facilitate continuous engagement between policymakers, scholars, practitioners, and civil society on strategies and actions for building resilience against regional security threats.
Other suggestions included resourcing the establishment of a regionally networked information database that would be easily accessible to security agencies in all West African states and strengthening information sharing among countries; building the capacity of security personnel to protect human rights and prevent youth radicalization and violent extremism; establishing joint research projects involving practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to produce innovative knowledge that respond to emerging security challenges; developing modeling systems for identifying vulnerabilities across countries; and popularizing and disseminating information on existing laws and frameworks that facilitate the building of resilience against security threats at the national and regional levels.
In her closing remarks, Prof. Mensa-Bonsu noted the importance of the opportunity of stakeholders to brainstorm ways of building West Africa’s resilience against security threats, expressed appreciation to the partners and all participants, and called for the convening of continued initiatives to respond proactively to some of the security challenges facing the sub-region.
See photos from the event on the APN’s Flickr.