The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has identified inequality as one of the major factors causing rise in crisis, including military coups and insecurity in the West African subregion.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr. Sidie Tunis, made this known at the opening of the delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee of the ECOWAS Parliament 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 holding in Monrovia, Liberia.
He said that supporting the participation of people from vulnerable and marginalized groups in the decision-making and democratic processes of the societies is key to continued peace, security and sustainable development.
Tunis acknowledged that every meeting of the Parliament is an opportunity to analyze and make proposals to better understand and control political, economic, and social developments in West Africa.
While noting 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, Dr. Tunis said: “As we all know, inequality has been one of the bases or causes of subversive acts in our region.
“The marginalization 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.”
The Speaker 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 revealed that the delocalized meeting, which is being held on the theme: “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.
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 distribution of political offices.
She 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.
Taylor 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, but 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 which 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 delocalized meeting was apt and the Commission awaits recommendations from the meeting that it can work with the Parliament to ensure 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 prerequisite to our economic and social integration as a sub region,” Touray said.