In compliance with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) instructions to the Member States for the holding of two National Stakeholders Consultative Workshops on post-2020 Vision and strategic frameworks, Liberia successfully concluded its first phase in Ganta, Nimba County.
The event, which ended on Friday, November 22, was hosted under the theme, “Ideas for a Peaceful, Borderless and Prosperous Region.”
During the interactive and inclusive event, participants from government, political parties, youths, women, civil society organizations, academics, NGOs, trade unions, the media, defense and security forces, private sector, religious and traditional organizations, were engaged in the consultations.
Upon invitation, the Mayor and other officials from the border City of Diécké in Guinea, including defense and security personnel, participated in the opening ceremony.
A statement quoting ECOWAS’ National Office at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) in Monrovia, said the workshop was conducted through Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), a method that deliberated on eight key thematic arrears, including human capital, economy, social structures, governance, peace and security, environment, technological innovations and cross-border challenges, issues which are deemed vital to West Africa.
ECOWAS was established in May 1975 through the Treaty of Lagos with the original intents such as economic initiatives, which would foster economic and political cooperation among member states with the sole objective to improve the living conditions of the people and, at the same time, ensure economic growth, fast track development and truly integrate West Africa.
But over the years, when confronted with many persistent unfavorable challenges, ECOWAS needed to adopt strategies that would keep the organization on an even keel, bearing in mind the possible negative impact these challenges could have on its visibility, including the survival of the people.
For this to become a reality and meaningful, it would require a higher degree of commitment and political will amongst the leaders of West Africa. Mindful of this, the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, which is the highest decision-making body, adopted the ECOWAS Vision 2020 in June 2007 as the vehicle to transform West Africa into a borderless, peaceful and prosperous region by 2020.
Three years later, in 2010, ECOWAS adopted the below five-pillar long-term vision for West Africa which is nearing its expiration come 2020. Over the last ten (10) years, this vision has provided the strategic orientation for the design and implementation of policies, programs, projects and activities of the regional body.
Now on the eve of the 2020 deadline and considering the many persistent challenges including competing priorities that have overwhelmed ECOWAS in the past and are still visible today, the biggest question now is: was vision 2020 really achievable in the wake of multiple conflicts that over-showed and undermined ECOWAS’ ability to effectively and efficiently deliver what should have been done, that was not done at all in the face of these serious economic and political hiccups?
With just about four weeks to the year 2020, concrete efforts aimed at creating “a borderless, peaceful, prosperous and coherent region, built on good governance, where people can access and exploit its enormous resources through the creation of opportunities for sustainable development and environmental preservation,” will be key to any new transformation agenda that will be developed for West Africa with the overall objective of positively impacting the lives of its citizens including those residing within its borders.
Cognizant of this, ECOWAS leaders have reached a consensus that urgent and strategic strategies and programs must be developed and implemented to respond effectively to the needs of West Africans including the development of the region. Consequently, a doable Roadmap has been established for the preparation of the ECOWAS Post 2020 Vision Agenda which has as its flagship activities, the conduct of two National Stakeholders Consultations in all Member States to be implemented by their respective National Offices in collaboration with the Office of the ECOWAS Ambassador and planning experts.
Not only that, the consultations must ensure that the post-2020 Vision reflects the “needs and aspirations” of the citizenry.
To achieve this, it is imperative that the ECOWAS National Offices bring the people together in a “Focus Group Discussions” (FGDs) forum to gather their views, experiences, opinions and share ideas on three fundamental areas: achievements of ECOWAS during the implementation of the ECOWAS VISION 2020; new development challenges in the Region that need to be addressed in the post-2020 Vision blueprint; and Long term aspirations for the Region in terms of the “West Africa they want to see” in the next 25 to 50 years.
According to the ECOWAS’ National Office at the MFDP, the leaders of the region are ready, the political will to empower the people themselves to participate in a National Consultative self-determination process is unquestionable and commendable. This time around, the statement added, allowing them to lead in reviewing and revising the 2020 Transformation Agenda will certainly serve as a strategic direction for achieving sustainable development which would greatly impact their lives.
Given the success of the first phase of the National Consultative Workshops, the full implementation of the second and final phase, scheduled for December 12th and 13th 2019 at the Bo Waterside Border point, Grand Cape Mount County is imperative.
The outcomes from these two events will then be summarized and formulated as Liberia’s position in the new ECOWAS life-changing document. Thereafter, the Government of Liberia will submit same to the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for further actions.