Monday, October 12, 2009

ECOWAS considers citizens in decision making

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has started a process that aims at encouraging citizens' participation in ECOWAS decisions and activities. The programme, called: "Community Development Programme," hopes to transform West Africa into a borderless region where ordinary citizens can enjoy free movement and trade amongst themselves. Mr Traore Kalilou, Director at the Ivorian Ministry of Regional Integration, said there was low level involvement in ECOWAS activities by non-state actors in the region hence the need for the CDP programme to make the ordinary ECOWAS citizen enjoy the privileges of ECOWAS. He said this at a workshop organized by ECOWAS for civil society organizations within the sub region to share ideas on the structure of the CDP and make inputs where necessary. The workshop brought together about 50 civil society actors and media personnel from Nigeria, Cote D' Ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cape Verde and Senegal The CDP, which is still at the planning stage, when established, would facilitate the creation of a region where people can live in dignity and peace under the rule of law and good governance in each of the member states. Mr Kalilou said regional integration was one of the solutions to the development problems in Africa. Mr Ken Ukaoha, a civil society actor from Nigeria, said after 38 years of ECOWAS, the region appeared not to have moved closer to development and integration as was originally envisaged. Comparing ECOWAS to the European Union he said in Europe people, even non citizens who have a visa are able to move freely from one European country to the other, however, the story is not the same in ECOWAS. "Even travelling from Ghana to Cote d'Ivoire, can take people two days because of immigration demands," Mr Ukaoha said. He said civil society organizations could help get the ordinary person integrated into ECOWAS since they are usually in touch with people at the local level. "The Community Development Programme aims at realizing the ECOWAS heads of States and government's vision 2020 of a transition from ECOWAS heads of states to ECOWAS of people," Mr Ukaoha said.

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