Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (III): West Africa

Three case studies discussed in this document, illustrated ECOWAS’s interventions in crisis situations during the last fifteen years and prompt a series of observations. Firstly, this particularly troubled region is marked by a succession and juxtaposition of crises and conflicts of variable intensity in most member countries. Secondly, both on the political and diplomatic fronts, the organization has reacted systematically to crises in the region, with the strong involvement of heads of state, under the dual impetus of chairs of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government and presidents of the ECOWAS Commission. Heads of state have learned to work with the president of the Commission, who is far from being merely a subordinate. Thirdly, the organization has become a major player in the regional political landscape. In the eyes of leaders and populations, its interventions are legitimate. The organization gets involved in case of crises and also, for example, during election campaigns. It takes part in the politics of member states, while acting as mediator or facilitator in discussions between political actors. ECOWAS has shown considerable initiative, the most striking illustration of which has undoubtedly been the rapid dispatch of heads of state to countries suffering from a dangerous level of political and security tension. However, this has often been accompanied by a concentration on short-term peace and stability objectives which did not necessarily further the political and institutional changes needed for a more durable peace.