The 51st Ordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of States and Governments officially commenced in Monrovia on Thursday, May 25, with efforts aimed at regional integration kickstarting the agenda. The meeting will also explore measures for increasing economic and security cooperation.
Youth empowerment and gender development, which are becoming increasingly critical in the region, are high on the agenda.
The ECOWAS Summit began with the 21st Meeting of the ECOWAS Administration and Finance Committee (AFC), which is the first of four mid-year statutory meetings of ECOWAS institutions to be hosted here, and will end with the 51st Ordinary Summit on June 4th.
In a statement, ECOWAS Commission President Marcel Alain de Souza said 2017 is the final year of the current ECOWAS management team; and as such, “we must leave on a high note. This meeting therefore marks the final mid-year AFC meeting under the current management. It is for us, together, to ensure that we leave a solid legacy and a strong viable organization for the next team to carry on with the task of working towards the realization of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the founding fathers of this organization, which are as relevant today as they were 42 years ago.”
While there are some remarkable achievements since the birth of the sub-regional organization, Mr. De Souza said challenges still abound.
“It is our collective duty to ensure that the forward steps taken, especially in the areas of democracy or good governance and regional integration, are not slowed down or reversed,” he said.
He said the meeting presents an opportunity for stakeholders to interact with representatives of a community that is rapidly changing.
Despite the numerous challenges that the ECOWAS Commission faces, Mr. De Souza said the Commission and other institutions of the Community remain attentive to the integration objectives of the region, with an undiluted commitment to articulate appropriate strategies for responding to pressing issues.
He also stressed the need for a single currency for ECOWAS, adding, “Let me encourage all member states to continue with efforts towards the realization of the goal of a single currency for our sub-region.”
He said the various memoranda to be presented during the course of the conference are intended to improve efficiency and enable the organization to respond to the dynamics of the external environment, and the demands of the citizens of the region.
“As we continue the process of restructuring our organization, we have no doubt that our determination to improve efficiency and eliminate waste and ensure the efficient utilization of the community’s resources will continue to receive your active support and that of the other decision making structures of the community,” he said.
“I would like to take this time to remind all of us that though there have been two smooth democratic transitions in The Gambia and Ghana, there are still serious security challenges facing our region and it is our collective responsibility to ensure peaceful co-existence in our region.
“With that said, I want to extend our best wishes to the government and people of Liberia for successful and peaceful elections scheduled later this year,” he said.
The ECOWAS Commission President said the deliberations at the AFC meeting, which opened the 51st ECOWAS Ordinary Summit, will impact the ECOWAS 2020 Vision, also known as ‘ECOWAS of the Peoples.’
“Our forefathers, from the inception of this organization, dreamed of a community wherein its citizens are the sole beneficiaries of the community’s scarce resources, and this we must bring to realization.”
AFC Chairman Benedict Roberts, in a brief remark, raised the critical issue of the outcomes and impacts the institution envisages from all the decisions made from previous deliberations. Few among them include whether the AFC’s decisions are geared towards allocating more funds to projects that directly impact the community, or consider budget requests that place more emphasis on youth and gender development.
“Did our deliberations help build a more cohesive community based organization with the 3Cs—collaboration, coordination and cooperation? Have the community transmitted the US$20,000 recommended by the AFC and approved by council for youth development to member states?” he asked.
Given these circumstances, he said, “Let me remind all of us that officials of the AFC are the first line of examiners who are charged with the responsibility to critically review and determine the expenditures of the programs of institutions of ECOWAS in line with the Community’s strategic framework, goal and objective.”
He indicated that it is more expedient for the Community’s reports to include performance indicators and targets to help the AFC better measure the impacts of their programs and their budgets.