Communiqué: West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 (#WACSW23)

Communiqué: West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 (#WACSW23)

Embracing Democracy, Peace, and Prosperity: A Collective Call for a Stronger West Africa

Preamble

We, the participants of the maiden West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 (WACSW23), representing over 100 civil society organizations from across West Africa and partners from East and Southern Africa, convened in Lagos, Nigeria, from August 29 to 31, 2023. Under the auspices of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), the meeting deliberated on critical issues affecting democracy, peace and prosperity in the region. We engaged in candid discussions, shared experiences, and collectively formulated strategies and demands to address challenges and contribute to a peaceful and prosperous West Africa.

Challenges and Concerns

The maiden WACSW23 occurred against the backdrop of alarming democratic recession, growing authoritarianism, shrinking civic space, increasing public disaffection over bad governance and recurring coups d’état in West Africa. Indeed, during the days of the convening, there was a military coup in Gabon, in Central Africa, further underscoring the relevance of, as well as the urgency with which the prevailing challenges must be addressed.

While we recognize that our region is at a crossroads, with citizens increasingly expressing frustration due to unfulfilled democratic dividends and a lack of responsive governance, we unequivocally oppose coups and military interventions in politics as a panacea to the governance challenges facing the region. We emphasize the need for citizens’ voices to be heard, and for their legitimate concerns to be acknowledged and addressed through peaceful and democratic means.

To this end, we strongly denounce the coups d’état that have happened in our region, and the recent one in Gabon in the Central African region. We also condemn all other forms of unconstitutional changes of government and manipulated tenure elongation that undermine the democratic principles our region aspires to uphold. We further express our deep concern over the disturbing trend of recession in democratic practices and values, and reiterate our commitment to democratic governance, constitutional rule, and democratic electoral practices as fundamental principles for sustainable development and peace.

Resolutions:

  1. Non-Military Interventions: We call upon the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to exercise caution and prioritise peaceful approaches in responding to governance crises in the region. We stand united against any military intervention in Niger, or in any part of the region, by ECOWAS that could have destabilizing ramifications within the region. We advocate for the restoration of constitutional order through dialogue and negotiation, in line with the principles of democracy and the interests of the people.

 

  1. Protecting Civic Space and Inclusive Development: We emphasise the importance of protecting, strengthening, and expanding civic space at this critical juncture, with particular emphasis to enable civil society organisations to thrive and contribute effectively to democratic governance, national and regional development. We reject any attempts to curtail freedom of expression, association, and assembly, which are fundamental to the functioning of a vibrant civil society. We call on governments to uphold human rights and ensure the safety of civil society actors.

 

  1. Moral Authority of ECOWAS: We call upon ECOWAS to reassert its moral authority and regain the trust of its citizens. There is no better time than now for the ‘ECOWAS of the People’ mantra to translate into tangible commitment to the promotion of the well-being of the people of West Africa. We advocate for the operationalization of the ECOWAS Social and Economic Council (ECOSOCC) to strengthen collaboration between ECOWAS and civil society, moving forward.

 

  1. ECOWAS should Adopt the Provisions of the Supplementary Protocol: We appeal to ECOWAS to adopt the revised supplementary protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (as amended), as well as commit to a uniform application of the provisions of the protocol in response to unconstitutional change of government.

 

  1. Civil Society Solidarity: We highlight the importance of unity among civil society organizations to amplify our impact and contributions to democracy, peace, and prosperity of the region.

 

  1. Amplify Youth Agency: Supporting and safeguarding the engagement of young people by providing platforms, training, and resources and ensuring that their voices are genuinely considered in the Civic Space.

 

  1. Peace and Prosperity through Collaboration: We recognize that achieving lasting peace and prosperity in West Africa requires collective and multi-stakeholder efforts. We urge governments, ECOWAS, and development partners to prioritize the well-being of citizens over political interests. Civil society plays a vital role in advocating for the rights and welfare of the people, and we commit to sustained engagement, collaborative action, and innovative approaches to advance these goals.

 

  1. Inclusive Actions for Progress: We underscore the importance of the principle of leaving-no-voices-behind and, in this regard, urge both state and non-state actors to prioritise inclusion, especially the involvement of the youth and women, in all actions geared towards the progress of our region.

 

In conclusion, the West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 has been a pivotal moment for dialogue and deeper reflection during these difficult times in the region. We emerged from this inaugural meeting with a renewed commitment to defending democracy, promoting peace, and ensuring prosperity in West Africa. We urge governments, ECOWAS, and development partners to join us in these efforts.

Signed:

Representatives of Civil Society Organizations across West Africa

Issued on this day, 31 August 2023, in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.