FemWise-ECOWAS and ECCAS-REFEMAC Peer-to-Peer Conversations

Women mediators exchange on conflict prevention and early interventions

On 31 March 2023, ACCORD in collaboration with the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) convened a Virtual Knowledge Session to promote cross-regional peer-to-peer conversations on conflict prevention and early warning. Held during the month celebrating International Women’s day, which is observed annually on 8 March, the session brought together women mediators to discuss the need to create their own negotiation tables that will centre women within the mediation and the broader conflict prevention landscape.

In his opening remarks, ACCORD’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr Vasu Gounden, alluded to the value added by the presence of women and the direct shift this has on the focus of the conversations. He highlighted that this knowledge sharing session was timely in actualizing UNSCR 1325.  Dr. Onyinye Onwuka, ECOWAS Head of Mediation and Coordination of Regional Political Affairs shared insights on the situation in West Africa, where major security threats including the rise of violent extremism, increased sexual and gender-based violence, and civil unrest continue, with some countries also currently affected by military rule.  Adv. Marie-Madeleine Kalala Ngoyi, Honorary Minister of Human Rights, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and President of REFEMAC (ECCAS) underscored the numerous challenges affecting the Central African Region, similar to those experienced by West African countries, and emphasized the limited participation of women in conflict prevention and mediation. Ms. Gloria Kabage, FemWise-Africa Representative, summed up the challenges and presented the recommendations that included, political considerations; network capacitation; and deployment. Ms Kabage also indicated that FemWise Africa as the umbrella network, has decentralised its operations, and is committed towards supporting regional and national women mediator’s networks. Mme Petronille Vaweka, ECCAS Region NGO activist and former interim Chairperson of the Ituri Interim Assembly; Ms. Queeneth Tawo, Regional Coordinator on Women , Peace and Security (WPS) at  the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP); as well as Dr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh and Ms. Alice Goza, Co – chairs of ECOWAS FemWise, also contributed to the discussion. The Knowledge Session allowed for practitioners from both the ECCAS and ECOWAS regions to share their mediation and peacebuilding experiences.

H.E. Kapinga Yvette Ngandu, ECCAS Commissioner on Gender, Human and Social Development, in her closing remarks, noted the lack of political will, deployment, and limited financing as key issues that affect the effectiveness of the WPS agenda. She concluded by stating, The level of advocacy required by women mediator networks must meet the extent of resistance by member states in order to gain and solidify women’s seat at mediation tables. More than this, women mediators need to create their own negotiation tables that will centre women within the mediation and broader conflict prevention landscape.” Mrs Pravina Makan-Lakha, ACCORD’s Advisor on WPS, facilitated the Virtual Session.

The knowledge shared supports the efforts of the ECCAS Women Mediator’s Network and the West Africa Women Networks to consolidate and further operationalise their work. Additionally, these peer-to-peer conversations help to build the capacities of women mediators as well as enhance their responses and strategies to mitigate potential risks in regional and continental conflict contexts. The event aligns with ACCORD’s strategic objective, to enhance the institutional responses of the African Union and Regional Economic Communities to complex conflicts; and to enhance the role of women to prevent, mitigate and resolve complex conflicts.

Article by:

Thokozile Nkgadima
Programme Administrator