Stakeholders at ECOWAS Parliament’s Joint Committee on Political Affairs, Peace, Security and the African Peer Review Mechanism Meeting highlight disconnect between government and citizens, exclusion of marginalised groups in decision-making as contributing factor to volatility and threats to democracy in the sub-region.
Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Sidie Mohammed Tunis, has identified inequality as one of the major factors causing rising crises, including military coups and insecurity in the West African sub-region.
Speaker Tunis noted that supporting the participation of people from vulnerable and marginalised groups in the decision-making and democratic processes of the societies is key to continued peace, security and sustainable development.
He stated this at the opening of the delocalised meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament Joint Committee on Political Affairs, Peace, Security and the African Peer Review Mechanism, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on Social Affairs, Gender, and Women Empowerment held in Monrovia, Liberia.
Tunis also stressed that every meeting of the Parliament is an opportunity to analyse and make proposals to better understand and control political, economic, and social developments in West Africa. He further noted that the meeting will focus on one of the priorities of ECOWAS Vision 2050, which is to promote good governance and consolidate irreversible peace, security, as well as development in the region.
According to the Speaker, “As we all know, inequality has been one of the bases or causes of subversive acts in our region.
The marginalisation of vulnerable groups from important decision-making processes, particularly ethnic or religious minorities, women and young people, provides fertile ground for conflict of violent extremism.”
He said: “We must convince ourselves that supporting the participation of people from vulnerable and marginalized groups in the decision-making and democratic processes of our societies is imperative for peace, security and sustainable development.”
Speaker Tunis added that “Political inclusivity has the advantage of enabling all points of view to be expressed and taken into consideration, and of enhancing the representation of every segment of the population, including women and young people.”
He further revealed that the delocalized meeting themed: “Enhancing political inclusivity in the participatory governance process: a mechanism for promoting peace and security “, was part of activities designed by the ECOWAS Parliament to continually demonstrate its openness to the citizens of the region, stressing that it also provides an opportunity to share experiences and collaborate with national institutions in the pursuit of the integration objectives of ECOWAS.
On her part, Liberia’s Vice President, Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, lamented that political inclusivity is still far from being achieved, insisting that going by a few statistics as indicated by a January 2023 UN Women Facts and Figures report, women on the continent particularly and globally, in general, are still yet to be accorded the acceptable number in the distribution of political offices.
Taylor noted that inclusive political processes are crucial to sustaining peace and conflict prevention; establishing and strengthening political processes aimed at improving the participation and political influence of citizens; making governments and institutions more accountable and transparent, and building a stronger and more inclusive social contract between government and the people for greater access to opportunities, amongst other issues.
She said though much has been done over the past 30 years to bring to the front burner the issue of equal participation of both genders, the fact remains that even at the ECOWAS Parliament where the mandatory acceptable standard is a minimum 30% representation from each member state; current statistics indicated that out of 115 members, only 21 members are females, a mere 18.26%.
She argued that: “A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is also not less…” She asked the parliamentarians that “As you navigate the discussions on the way forward towards greater peace and security in our sub-region, I crave your indulgence to proffer policy prescriptions that compel our National Governments to take affirmative actions for the inclusion of women at all levels in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of governments.”
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray also noted that the disconnect between the government and its citizens is a contributing factor to the volatility and threats to democracy in the sub-region.
Touray, who was represented by Mrs Josephine Nkurumah, Permanent Representative of the ECOWAS Commission to Liberia urged Members of the ECOWAS Parliament to consider the role of civic engagements as a key strategy to building a more inclusive society.
He said that the ECOWAS Parliament’s delocalised meeting was apt and the Commission awaits recommendations from the meeting that it can work with the Parliament to ensure the inclusivity of all ECOWAS citizens in the democratic process of the sub-region.
“The seeming disconnects between the governed and those who govern have contributed in part to the volatility of the sub-region leading to discontent in our communities.
“It is pertinent that in other to have effective inclusiveness and participatory government processes, our citizens must be engaged, involved, and discerning.
“We look forward to a collaborative effort to building a more inclusive society in our governance processes for peace and security which are prerequisites to our economic and social integration as a sub-region,” Touray said.