West African Conflict Early Warning and Early Response System: The Role of Civil Society Organizations

"This paper assesses the partnership between ECOWAS and civil society organizations in the implementation of the early warning system. It explores options for strengthening this partnership to facilitate early response, contending, among others, that the role of civil society should go beyond early warning information gathering to include a recognized responsibility endorsed and supervised by ECOWAS to intervene (via mediation and/or conciliation) in community and national level conflicts. This point is made in recognition of the fact that in the context of early warning, “attracting attention to low-profile conflicts is problematic [while] shifting from macro-level political early warning to micro citizen-based warning and response systems has been slow.” However, given the peculiar circumstance of West Africa, there is potential utility in the mediation role of sub-regional CSOs both on their own merit and as informal conflict prevention instruments of ECOWAS at the community level. After a conceptual discussion on the utility of CSOs, the next two parts briefly examine the evolving sub-regional security architecture as contained in the Mechanism."