Accra, Jan. 10, GNA - Civil society groups within the West African Sub-region have been urged to work hard to help make the region a complete haven of peace for accelerated development.
Addressing the opening session of the 2nd Annual West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) on Monday in Accra, General Cheikh Diara of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Secretariat said it was unfortunate that the West Africa sub-region had become the most conflict stricken on the continent.
The four-day forum is being attended by 100 participants drawn from various civil society organisations in the Sub-region. It aims at promoting permanent dialogue between ECOWAS and WACSOF and also deliberate on key issues affecting the rapid development of the sub-region.
Cheikh Diara noted that the role of civil society in achieving a lasting peace in the region could not be over-emphasized since their activities was human-centred and also sent them closer to the people to identify the rudiments of what eventually resulted in protracted conflicts.
He urged the members of WACSOF to develop clear-cut policies and put the necessary structures in place to enable them to engage effectively with other regional bodies.
In a speech read on his behalf, Dr. Konadu Apraku, Minister of NEPAD and Regional Cooperation, said while ECOWAS had made significant progress on several fronts, the totality of the picture in the sub-region was at best uninspiring and at worst quite disturbing. "Poverty remains a serious problem for us as a people, and the incidence of instability and conflict is still too high for comfort," he said.
Dr. Apraku noted that ECOWAS has spent the last 30 years in proving the place of regionalism in promoting integration, preventing conflict and building peace in the sub-region.
He said a major obstacle inhibiting ECOWAS in achieving peace and stability had been the lack of viable systems of governance and democratisation at all levels of society.
"Today it is refreshing enough that the link between democratisation, security and development is assuming greater prominence by the increasing demand of the ordinary citizen. "The people are craving for frameworks that would ensure greater ownership and accountability in the affairs of the states and establish binding social contracts between the rulers and the governed," he noted.