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ECOWAS security level talks opens in Abuja
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Created: 22nd Apr 2009
Modified: 22nd Apr 2009
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The five-day Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) strategic level seminar on security sector governance and reform opened in Abuja Monnday with President, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambers saying it is the challenge of the leaders to create a sub-region where freedom from fear and want are achieved through a security system that is responsive and responsible to the needs and aspirations of the people.

Dr Chambers said the focus should be towards adopting and implementing norms that set minimum standards for Security Sector Reform (SSR) for the sub-region for the security sector.

He listed such minimum standards to include “the non-negotiable principles of the democratic control of the security forces, zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means and the primacy of the observance of international human rights and humanitarian standards within the security system.”

But Dr Chambers noted that for the “purposes of coherence and sustainability of the SSR/Governance Framework, while being inspired by international norms and standards, should be based on African Union and ECOWAS norms and frameworks. To ensure local ownership, the concept and practice of SSR/G must be grounded in the history, culture and realities of the region. The regional SSR/G should also allow for nuanced and customised approaches to SSR based on the specific needs, peculiarities of member States deriving their status either as States in Conflict, Post-Conflict States, States in Transition from Autocratic/Dictatorial Rule or States Nominally at Peace.”

But he particularly said the framework that eventually emerges must pay particular attention to the service conditions of “men and women in uniform.”

US Permanent Representative to ECOWAS and US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Robin Sanders stated that what should be of utmost importance to the participants is “a fully integrated West Africa that include first and foremost cooperation, understanding, coordination interoperability and respect among the militaries and civilian leadership of this region.”

In addition, he urged them to discuss future security framework of the region and the continent from governance to maritime issues but also how we can all work together to help post-conflict countries make that delicate transition from elections to stability.

Commandant of National Defence College (NDC), Rear Admiral John Jonah told the audience at the ECOWAS Secretariat Abuja that armed conflicts in the sub-region are being exacerbated by the “politicization of the security sector, degradation of professionalism, rampant impunity and loss of public trust. The absence of effective, democratic governance of the security sector has been a significant casual factor in many cases of State fragility and civil war.”

Admiral Jonah regretted that “security sector actors – particularly the armed forces and police – have often been instruments for ensuring regime security rather than guaranteeing human security.”

The seminar is being co-hosted by the National Defence College, Abuja, the ECOWAS Secretariat and the African Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS), an agency of the National Defence University under the United States Department of Defence.

It is to be attended by Minister of State for Defence, Alhaji Ademola Seriki, senior military and civilian officials from both the ECOWAS headquarters and member States, ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff, Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission and Commissioners, senior officials from the Ministry of Defence and Interior, Heads of Security Commission of Parliaments, Presidents of High Courts and representatives of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The seminar aims at the following:
*raising awareness of security sector governance/reform and the paradigm shift initiated by the UN;
*Overview of various stakeholders and identification of key strategies for generating and sustaining international cooperation and networking;
*Establishment of the linkages among security sector governance/reform, democracy and good governance;
*Adoption of a peace building approach to national and sub-regional security implying a broadening of the current security agenda in virtually every West African country;
*Sharing of sound practices from other regions;
*Discussion of an ECOWAS approach to security sector governance and reform;
*Assessment of necessary steps towards a significant restructuring of the security sector in order to maximise its capacity to protect the State and its citizens from the full range of threats identified and integrate the security sector fully into a system of democratic governance; and
*Establishment or strengthening of effective peer-networking among key stakeholders.

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