Dakar, Senegal – AWEPA was represented by Hon. Elisabeth Nauclér, Member of the Parliament of Finland and Deputy Head of the AWEPA Section in Finland, Hon. Dr. Tadeusz Iwiński, AWEPA Head of Polish Section and Finnish AWEPA member Dr. Kimmo Kiljunen, the Foreign Minister’s Special Representative to regional mediation tasks at the conference “Political Stability, Human Security and Development in West Africa”, a joint endeavor between AWEPA and the ECOWAS-Parliament. The objectives of the conference were to define the roles of parliamentarians at national and regional levels ensuring human security in the region, addressing political stability in West Africa and assessing advancement towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Afterwards, Hon. Elisabeth Nauclér shared her experiences with us as follows:
“Although I have not been involved in initiating and planning the conference, nor in cooperating with ECOWAS on these topics, I understood we were there to pass the message that now is the time for an action plan leading to concrete measures, and not more guidelines. I tried to bear that in mind when delivering my speech, being a resource person in the workshop. […]
The challenges to human security and achievement of the MDGs in West Africa are diverse; this is why cooperation is so important to parliamentarians. I think that this was one of the main goals for participants: to create an efficient body that could meet different threats such as armed conflicts, famine or natural disasters.
ECOWAS was originally created to facilitate economic cooperation in the West Africa region, but over the years the focus changed and the goal is to increasingly become a resource for the more severe problems which plague the region and hinder development. This conference presented an opportunity to expose the issues, as well as discuss how to amend the current structure so as to remedy some of the shortcomings, for example creating a supra state cooperation, where nation states would delegate part of their mandate to ECOWAS. One could of course only welcome such initiatives, but I am a little bit cautious about this idea knowing how hot this debate currently is in the EU with people arguing and defending the right of the nation states to take back power (the subsidiarity discussion) from the regional body. Will the states agree, and will it work in practice, to transfer power to ECOWAS in situations of armed conflict?
Participants also focused on ways to improve the present system for solving conflicts, specifically in terms of rapid response and independence from the UN. They thought of creating an effective peace force that could deploy at any moment with short notice; at present, the peace force in place is not immediately deployable and lacks equipment, adequate training and mobility. I am unable to assess the likelihood of achieving such an operational force, but I do believe that there would be a need for, not only economic support from outside, but also for international assistance as the chronic instability of certain countries in the region destabilizes neighbours and exacerbates poverty.
The work of Finland to introduce good-governance, rule-of-law, democracy, sound election systems, as well as to combat corruption and other irregularities fits naturally within this endeavour of ECOWAS to address these issues from a regional perspective through the legislature. I can see no reason for not continuing at a general level, but at the same time I think there is a need for focused actions. The question of women’s empowerment is central, and especially among women parliamentarians. In this field we have great experience to share. ECOWAS already has a women’s caucus. They convened a meeting during the conference and called me to participate, where they discussed action plans related to UN SC Resolution 1325. In addition, other actions targeting violence against women and girls such as female circumcision are of prime importance and should be taken in cooperation with both the Parliament and Commission of ECOWAS.”