By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Member countries of the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and other African Regional Economic Communities (REC) have been urged to review the approaches they adopt in keeping their communities free from war and conflicts.
ECOWAS, according to the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), would need to device sustainable means of stimulating the economic growth achieved by its members through proactive peacekeeping approaches, one which ensures that all members of the society are included in peace building processes.
The Director of NAI, Iina Soiri, stated this at a recent two-day policy dialogue on REC in Africa it convened in partnership with Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) in Abuja.
Soiri said researches conducted by the institute and its partners have shown that RECs in Africa are increasingly becoming centres for peacekeeping. She noted such development puts pressure on the economic development of African countries.
She explained the development suggests that African REC would have to now review their security architecture and concentrate more on peacebuilding. According to her, the current peacekeeping approaches of African countries contribute to the poor economic showings of their economies.
“Our main task is to conduct research on Africa’s economic, social and political development and also ensure partnership between academics in Africa and the Nordic countries.
“We are here today trying to discuss the roles of regional economic communities in peace keeping and peace operations. We have done a lot of research on Africa’s security architecture and how the African Union should develop its own peace operations.
“We have discussed why economic communities have now suddenly become communities for peace and what pressure that poses today in terms of institutional, finance and governance issues,” Soiri said.
She stated in response to a question on the findings of NIA researches on ECOWAS peacekeeping approach: “There was an interesting discussion about what is war and conflict and I think that it reflects the many situations in many West African countries after their very strong economic growth, and there was some conversations that economic communities have to be able to create wealth in other to solve the conflicts because poverty is actually a big factor in many conflicts.
“The framework of our discussion is exactly that, societies suffering from hunger and poverty are never at peace.”
Similarly, at a dinner in honour of participants at the dialogue, the Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria, Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury stated that the five Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, that fund the institute, have for decades cooperated with Africa on key development issues.
According to her: “The Nordic Africa Institute not only brings together researchers and produces top-quality research. It puts a lot of emphasis on giving a platform for policy makers and the academia to come together, and to have a dialogue – like in this event in Abuja.”
“Peace and security, peace building and peace mediation are important priorities for Finland. We believe that the issue of women, peace and security, and the role of women in conflicts must be at the heart of all this. We support African efforts in these areas.
“The topic of the meeting at hand must be commended, considering the important role of Regional Economic Communities, like ECOWAS here in West Africa,” Suomela-Chowdhury added.