President, ECOWAS Commission calls for improvement of electoral assistance

Lagos, March 28, 2017 (TNE): President of ECOWAS Commission Marcel M. de Souza has asked members to come up with a declaration for the improvement of the quality of electoral assistance to its member States.

The demand was made on Monday in Cotonou, Benin Republic, at an international workshop reviewing a decade of ECOWAS Electoral Assistance in West Africa.

Declaring open the three-day workshop and the fifth biennial General Assembly meeting of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), De Souza said the Declaration should derive from a dispassionate assessment with a view to strengthening the electoral systems of member states.

It should also improve the integrity and reports of electoral observation missions deployed by the Commission.

He reminded participants that although ECOWAS’ primary objective was economic integration, the regional organisation has had to recalibrate its agenda in line with emerging socio-political challenges.

According to him the challenges include electoral contestations in the continuing efforts to balance economic development with the pursuit of democracy, good governance, peace and security in the region.

He explained that in response to global trends and the commitment of ECOWAS leaders to strengthening democracy in the region, the Commission in 2006 set up its Electoral Assistance Division (EAD), which drew its mandate from the organisation’s Supplementary Protocols on Democracy and Good Governance, Conflict Prevention Framework and the regional Guide on Election Observation.

As the Commission celebrates 10 years of electoral assistance and promotion of democracy in West Africa, he acknowledged the immense contributions of the Commission’s felicitation to ECONEC which was set up in 2008.

The president also expressed the Commission’s gratitude to development partners especially the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the European Union (EU), and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for supporting 

In his welcome remarks, Chair of the Benin Republic Electoral Commission Emmanuel Tiando said his country was pleased to host the international conference, pursuant to its commitment to democracy and good governance and the ECOWAS roadmap.

He called for the strengthening of capacity of EMBs to make them more effective in delivering their mandate.

In his goodwill message, the German Ambassador to Benin Republic Walter Von den pledged his country’s continued support to ECOWAS through GIZ, including in electoral assistance and promoting peace and security in the region. 

He cited the Commission’s active engagement and support for member states holding elections as “one of its greatest achievements.”

Speaking in a similar vein, the OSIWA representative Mathias Hounkpe, commended ECOWAS for its strides at deepening democracy in the region. He noted that of the 10 presidential elections held in recent years in West Africa, seven of the losing candidates called their opponents to congratulate them on their victories.  

The OSIWAS official cited The Gambia, as one of the latest remarkable efforts by ECOWAS at safeguarding democracy in the region.

Mr. Francis Oke, Head of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division and Secretary General of ECONEC, outlined the agenda of the conference and the 5th biennial General Assembly of ECONEC, which is expected to elect and new Board and agree a work plan.

Participants at the Cotonou meeting include heads of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) in the region, election experts, members of the ECOWAS Parliament, and members of staff of the Commission’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department led by Commissioner Halima Ahmed.

Others are development partners such as the International Foundation for Electoral Support (IFES), the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), the West African Network for Peace building (WANEP) as well as staff of the ECONEC Secretariat.(TNE)

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