Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas has reiterated the vital role of women in peace building and conflict resolution across the continent, and the world at large.
He said “as the UN SG Special Representative, I am committed to promoting gender parity through my good offices in the region. Without women’s inclusion, peace is not sustainable.”
Dr Chambas was speaking at the closing ceremony for a training course on building women’s capacities for conflict analysis and prevention in West Africa and the Sahel, held at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.
The course forms part of a strong commitment of ECOWAS and United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) to further empower women in the sub-region, and was sponsored by the Netherlands Government.
It had over 30 participants from 11 countries in the region who were trained in conflict analysis, mediation, and gender dimension of conflict, mainly drawn from the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, and UNOWAS conflict analysis handbook.
Dr Chambas said “protecting human rights is enshrined in national and regional protocols and laws. Civil society is dynamic, dedicated and stronger. At the same time, insecurity is growing in many places in the region. In recent months we have witnessed increasing attacks by terrorist and armed groups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and the Lake Chad Basin.”
“To address these challenges, we need to deepen our understanding of the underlying causes and drivers of conflict. The role of women is crucial in this regard,” he noted.
He added “this concluding event is commendable for supporting women by building their capacity to better analyze conflict and to sustain peace. My key message therefore is that we need to reinforce and promote the participation of women in conflict resolution processes and in sustaining peace.
“Some of the women trained have been engaged in formal mediation processes but not all. A few women were involved in the political dialogues in Guinea in 2013 and 2015. Many women were engaged during the Mali peace processes in 2012 and in 2015.”
“Some women also contributed to the Cote d’Ivoire peace process. For the most part, their support involved promoting gender-sensitive language in peace agreements and other negotiation documents,” he said.
Head of Political Affairs and International Cooperation Division ECOWAS Dr Onyinye Onwuka said “I would like to bring to your attention the fact that this epoch making Training Workshop which will be cascaded to the Member States level is happening at a time that ECOWAS is marking the 10th anniversary of its ground breaking ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, which has Women, Peace and Security as one of its fifteen (15) components.”
“Thus, the need to further strengthen its enviable sectorial Collaboration with UNOWAS,” she said.
She added “I also wish to inform this August gathering that in addition to the robust Normative Frameworks which drives ECOWAS well acknowledged successes in Peace and Security, ECOWAS has recently taken additional steps to strengthen its institutional capacity to deliver on its Peace and Security mandate.”
“Such giant steps include the establishment of the Women Peace and Security Unit under the new Human Security and Civil Society Division and the Women Peace and Security Advisory Committee within the Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security,” she noted.