The workshop was conducted under the theme “Ideas for a Peaceful, Borderless and Prosperous Region” at the Liberia International Christian College (LICC) campus, LPMC Bye-pass.
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 this consultations. Upon invitation, the Mayor and other officials from the border City of Diecke in the Republic of Guinea including Defense and Security personnel were available and participated in the opening ceremony.
The forum was conducted through a Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) method that deliberated on eight key thematic arrears: (i) Human Capital; (ii) economy; (iii)social structures; (iv)governance; (v)peace and security, (vi)environment;(vii)technological innovations and (viii)cross-border challenges and issues deemed vital to West Africa.
ECOWAS was established in May 1975 through the Treaty of Lagos, the original intend of the of the sub-regional body was to foster economic and political cooperation among member states with the sole objective of improving 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, programmes, 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 six weeks into 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.
Cognizance of this, ECOWAS leaders have reached a general 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: a. achievements of ECOWAS during the implementation of the ECOWAS VISION 2020; b. new developments challenges in the Region that need to be addressed in the post 2020 Vision blueprint; and c. Long term aspirations for the Region in terms of the “West Africa they want to see” in the next 25 to 50 years. This is where ECOWAS stands at the moment.
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, 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.
With phase one now adjudge a success story, the full implementation of the second and final phase of the National Consultative Workshops scheduled for December 12th and 13th 2019 at the BO Waterside Border point, Grand Cape Mount County is imperative. The out comes from these two events will then be summarized and formulated as Liberia’s position in the new ECOWAS lives changing document. Thereafter, the Government of Liberia will submit same to the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria for further actions.