Accra, May 7, GNA - ECOWAS and the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) have signed a general cooperation agreement to enhance the coordination and harmonization of their programmes. It provides for the creation of a joint technical secretariat to enhance the coordination of their joint activities.
The agreement addresses areas of common interest between the two organizations and allows for the exchange of experiences, as well as the elaboration and implementation of joint programmes and projects.
It also permits both institutions to project their common positions in negotiations with development partners, such as the European Union, and jointly source for funds to finance their programmes.
The signing agreement rounded off a two-day meeting of both institutions on Wednesday, May 5, 2004 at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja. The Abuja meeting is one of the two bi-annual meetings that is held alternately in the Secretariats of their institutions and intended to develop synergy in the implementation of their programmes.
It was a follow-up to the last one held at the UEMOA headquarters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on March 24, 2003.
The ECOWAS-UEMOA consultations are in compliance with the directive of regional leaders at the 1999 Lome Summit, which requires the two institutions to rationalise their programmes and avoid duplication of efforts in the implementation of community integration programmes.
Since then, much progress has been made in the harmonisation of activities in such areas as the creation of West African customs union, convergence of economic and financial policies of member states through the multilateral surveillance mechanism, and the harmonisation of sectoral policies, including agriculture, transport and energy.
In his welcoming address, ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, reaffirmed the growing interest in the West African integration process within member states, the private sector, the civil society and the international community.
Dr Chambas noted that the interest, while encouraging, was also a challenge to ECOWAS and UEMOA to work harder to sustain the momentum and devise innovative ways of making regional integration more effective. He expressed satisfaction with the progress so far made in the harmonization and convergence of the programmes of the organisations.
Dr. Chambas identified two notable areas of collaboration as the formulation of a regional poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) and the negotiation of a regional economic partnership agreement (EPA) between West African and the European Union.
In his speech, the new President of the UEMOA Commission, Mr Soumaila Cisse, expressed satisfaction with the increased tempo of regional integration being pursued by the two institutions for the economic and social well-being of the region.
He said such collaborative efforts would allow for proper development of synergies, increase efficiency and productivity as well as reassure development partners of the commitment of the institutions to integration.
Mr Cisse called for the total compliance with the protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services, particularly the rights of residence and establishment. He also emphasized the need in all member states for equal access to education at all levels, regardless of a citizen's country to origin.
The UEMOA head tasked ECOWAS institutions and member states to make it possible for all West Africans to truly feel the impact of regional programmes and be able to identify with them.
He however, noted that these would not be realised without proper management of resources and good governance.
To support the political leadership, Mr Cisse urged ECOWAS and UEMOA to always share their experiences to enable the smooth achievement of community objectives.