Empowering Peace: Exploring Digital Pathways for Conflict Transformation

ECOWAS Empowering Peace: Exploring Digital Pathways for Conflict Transformation
FEB 27, 2024 LISTEN

The ECOWAS Commission, in close collaboration with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from across the region, has successfully concluded a series of workshops focused on digital conflict transformation.

Representatives from CSO from the ECOWAS region gathered in Abuja on February 21st, 2024, to share insights and engage with peacebuilders throughout the region.

This initiative falls under the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations (EPSAO) project, which underscores the Commission's commitment to proactive conflict management within the region. The participatory action research approach emphasizes the ECOWAS Commission's dedication to working with CSOs to better understand and address the complexities of conflict in the digital age.

The project receives co-funding from the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with implementation support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ GmbH).

Dr. Onyinye Onwuka, Ag. Director, ECOWAS Early Warning Directorate in the keynote address said “I am delighted to see the progress we have made in leveraging digital technologies for conflict transformation. This workshop has provided valuable insights and strategies that will help us drive positive change in our communities."

Led by Build Up, a digital conflict transformation organization, the workshops focused on exploring how CSOs can leverage digital processes for conflict transformation work. The goal was to develop concrete research and scoping plans to inform long-term interventions for inclusive and effective digital conflict transformation strategies.

During the workshops, each organization explored different digital tools and strategies tailored to their specific contexts. They explored utilizing WhatsApp and for wider community engagement on participatory processes, while others decided to deepen its social media analysis using the Phoenix process to understand hate speech and dangerous speech better. Another one aimed to mitigate the influence of rumors and misinformation through digital tools, and the fourth tested an animated video series for participative online engagement on misinformation and social cohesion.

Beyond the substantive outcomes, Build Up and the four CSOs are also testing a novel form of collaboration to ensure that digital conflict transformation initiatives are anchored in the priorities and existing work of CSOs, ensuring ownership and sustainability. One person from each CSO collaborates closely with one staff member from Build Up to implement the scoping and research methodology decided by the organization.

The workshops, as well as the learning workshop, represent a critical step in understanding and harnessing the power of digital tools for conflict resolution in the ECOWAS region. The insights and plans developed will significantly contribute to more effective and inclusive digital conflict transformation efforts in West Africa, informing the work of governmental and regional bodies in the ECOWAS region.