ECOWAS reinforces its work with women, peace and security

The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, launches new guidelines to improve the incorporation of the agenda for women, peace and security in the organization’s operations. It is the result of a collaboration with FBA.

 FBA supports ECOWAS’ gender mainstreaming efforts since 2017 through capacity development and advisory services. FBA has also trained ECOWAS standby forces in how to detect and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.

It is crucial to make women, peace and security part of all peace and security related work, says Sara Lindvall, senior specialist at FBA’s programme for gender equality, who has contributed to the development of ECOWAS’ new guidelines.

She sees the production of the guidelines as a sign of the organization’s commitment to the issue, but emphasizes the need for a strong leadership, gender advisers and gender focal point networks that can assist the staff in the implementation of the guidelines.

The target group for the guidelines is the around 50 staff members at ECOWAS’ department of political affairs, peace and security (PAPS). Translations in French and Portuguese will make the guidelines available in all official languages in the organization’s member states. The purpose is to guide the organization’s work with conflict prevention and election processes among other things, in the member states.

The guidelines consists of practical tips, suitable activities and step-by-step action points for all activities that PAPS undertake in the region, says Sara Lindvall.

For example, there is a chapter for those who work with elections and another chapter for those who work with small arms and light weapons, to support them in how to improve the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda and make it an integral part of their work. There is also a part about what you need to think of when working with regional security.

Dr. Onyinye Onwuka is Head of the political affairs and international cooperation division at PAPS and coordinator for the department’s women, peace and security advisory committee.

There has been a gap between legal frameworks such as United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and our daily activities. The guidelines clarify our obligation to increase women’s inclusion, protection, and participation in peace processes and will ensure that the women, peace and security agenda is institutionalized in the work of the PAPS department, Onyinye Onwuka says.

Colonel Eric Kossi Agossounon works as Program Officer in ECOWAS standby force. His ambition is to integrate a gender equality perspective in all activities, based on the guidelines.

Gender balance is key and I will definitely consider it when appointing personnel for a specific mission. Apart from that, I will focus on the sensitizationbecause all the staff need to be aware of the content of the guidelines, Eric Kossi Agossounon says.

Eventually, the guidelines will be connected to a regional action plan for the work with women, peace and security.

Photo 1: From an FBA training for ECOWAS standby force.

Photo 2: Sara Lindvall and FBA-colleages together with ECOWAS advisory Committee for women, peace and security.

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