"Training for Peace" Conference in West Africa Stresses Need for Larger Role of Civil Society

Accra, 7 October 2002

At a consultative session funded by the government of Norway on 7 October, peace trainers discussed how to strengthen the civilian components of West African humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. 

The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), together with the Executive Secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (Ghana) and the Government of Ghana, held a "Consultation on Training for Peace Operations in West Africa", at the Miklin Hotel in East Legon, Accra, Ghana. This conference was the firstphase of a large capacity-building project for ECOWAS currently underway. 

Participants were drawn from representatives of ECOWAS Member States, local police, military and security officials, security sector NGOs and relief agencies (particularly those with a subregional mandate), research and academic communities and experts in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. 

Discussions dealt with the current training programmes that ECOWAS Member States offer their security sector personnel in humanitarian relief intervention and peace operations, and the growing role of the international civilian police in public security, peace-building and peace-consolidation phases following the cessation of hostilities. 

Civil-military relations in ECOWAS peacekeeper training was at the centre of the talks. Some participants suggested conducting more joint civil-military training for peace operations. 

It was noted that ECOWAS peacekeepers needed training in the local languages, culture and politics of their duty stations. The importance of conflict analysis training and the need for media training were also underlined. 

Panel participants agreed that civilian police should play an early warning role in peace operations; recommended that ECOWAS take steps to develop a standing civilian police force; and that specific mandates should be given to police before they embark on peace operations. 

NGO involvement factored into discussions on the security of refugees and the constraints and challenges facing NGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs). The challenges included a need to share information and operate transparently; more cooperation on the part of governments and political authorities to heed their recommendations; and their own need to understand conflict management and resolution issues. 

Conferees called for an increased role for civil society in subregional peace operations. They emphasized technical training programmes, advocacy for peace-building by mobilizing the civil society and political sectors, conflict information-sharing networks and public access to conflict prevention and resolution research.