Cablegate: 2007 Ecowas Donors' Meeting

Published: Thu 13 Dec 2007 06:19 AM
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1. Summary: Development partners of the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) met November 20-21 in Abuja for a progress
report on the organization's initiatives. The central vision of the
ECOWAS Commission was transforming ECOWAS into an "ECOWAS of the
People." While peace and security issues remain central to ECOWAS's
work, implementing the ECOWAS Commission medium term work plan,
building institutional capacity, expanding participation in the
ECOWAS Donors Pool Fund and deepening regional integration were
areas the ECOWAS Commission identified as priorities during this
year's donors' meeting. Overall, the donors seemed satisfied with
ECOWAS's progress in its restructuring, but as the ECOWAS Commission
leadership acknowledged, more remains to be done. Donors agreed to
push the Commission to circulate a preliminary version of the ECOWAS
Commission President's Annual Report and the Financial Controller's
Annual Report prior to next year's ECOWAS Donors Meeting. The USG
continues to play an important role in facilitating the
organization's progress in promoting regional integration and peace
and security efforts progress; more can be done with committed and
long-term support for its reform and economic integration agenda.
End Summary.
President's Vision for ECOWAS
2. The meeting was opened by the ECOWAS Commission President, Dr.
Mohammed Ibn Chambas, with addresses from the Ambassador of
Portugal, as representative of the European Union Presidency, and
the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria. This was the
first donors meeting held under the new ECOWAS Commission. The
ECOWAS Commission President Chambas declared that the focus of this
year's meeting was to share the key strategic plan of an "ECOWAS of
the People" with development partners. He said the strategic
documents presented are to guide and drive all ECOWAS's
interactions, planning, program implementation, and interface with
development partners.
3. Dr. Chambas said a key priority was the operationalizing of the
new vision of transforming ECOWAS from a focus on states to creating
a borderless region of peoples as a vehicle for growth and
prosperity took center stage. On June 15 ECOWAS Heads of State had
adopted the ECOWAS Strategic Vision, which seeks to convert West
Africa into a borderless region where citizens can create and avail
themselves of opportunities for sustainable production by harnessing
West Africa's enormous resources. The vision foresees the creation
of a region-wide space for people to transact business, reduce
poverty, and live in dignity and peace under the rule of law and
good governance.
4. Dr. Chambas explained that in the Commission's efforts in
equipping itself for regional integration, it has strengthened its
capacity for financial management, established a department of
external relations to help coordinate all partner supports,
established a department of monitoring and evaluation and
established a strategic planning unit. Accelerating the recruitment
process was identified as a key challenge facing the Commission and
the newly established Human Resources Department.
ECOWAS Presentations
5. The meeting provided a platform for interaction, a review of the
ECOWAS strategic plans, capacity building strategic framework, and
review of areas of development cooperation. The Commission
circulated documents which provided basic information on its key
strategic plans. These were the ECOWAS Strategic Vision Document
and Commission structure, the Medium Term Work Plan, the Capacity
Building Strategic framework, the ECOWAS accounting and financial
systems transformation, and the Civil Society interface with
6. The Commission President updated development partners on the
progress made since the institutional transformation. He presented
the ECOWAS strategic vision for 2020 which focuses on sustainable
development, poverty eradication and regional peace and security.
ECOWAS Vice-President, Jean de Dieu Somda, presented the ECOWAS
Medium Term Plan (MTP) 2008-2010 which detailed how the Commission
will actualize the ECOWAS Vision 2020 of a borderless region of
peoples. The Financial Controller, Adaoha C. Okuosa, later made her
presentation on the implications of the transformation for the
accounting and financial system of ECOWAS. Dr. Chambas said ECOWAS
made some progress over the last year - strengthening its capacity
for financial management, ongoing recruitment process, creation of a
external relations department to coordinate partner support, and a
unit for strategic planning.
Economic Partnership Agreement with EU
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7. Dr. Chambas briefed donors on the activities being undertaken by
ECOWAS on the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement
(EPA) with the European Union (EU) for a free trade area between the
two regions. He disclosed that the negotiation was threatening to
divide countries of the ECOWAS region into blocs of LDCs and
non-LDCs, and threatened the regional integration and common customs
union. The ECOWAS Commission pointed to the Euro-Africa Summit in
Lisbon in December 8-9, 2007 as demonstrating whether there would be
progress in negotiating the EPA. Following the Summit, ECOWAS
expected to focus on development and regional integration in the EPA
Donor Comments
8. Portugal gave the donor keynote addresses on behalf of donors
during the conference. Other donors represented included Canada,
China, the Netherlands, Denmark, European Commission, France,
Portugal, Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Japan, the UK,
the U.S. and the World Bank. The Portuguese, represented by the
Portuguese ambassador to Nigeria, Maria de Fatima Perestrello, spoke
on behalf of donors and praised ECOWAS for its various initiatives,
particularly in the promotion of regional peace and security.
Ambassador Perestrello noted that despite these achievements, a lot
needed to be done for timely achievement of the principal objectives
of regional integration into a common market under a single
currency, with a monetary union. She noted that ECOWAS should do
more to implement regional common policies, accompanied by adoption
of internal changes by member states.
9. Donors congratulated ECOWAS for returning to the original vision
of regional economic integration. The Resident Coordinator of the
United Nations, Alberic Kacou, praised ECOWAS for its success so far
and challenged the ECOWAS Commission to develop strategies to ensure
its strategic participation in the global trading system as a
regional body. He called on the commission to establish clear goals
for all stakeholders and closely engage each member state goals in
the new vision of an ECOWAS of people. He further urged development
partners to cooperate with ECOWAS for greater coordination and
10. The DFID Regional Economic Advisor, Peter Poulsen, said that
since donors were not provided with advance copies of the
presentations for pre-meeting review it would be difficult to
comment on their contents or raise points of discussion during the
conference. The Canadian representative, Reid Cooper, made the
suggestion that ECOWAS be more active on health, HIV/AIDS, and
employment issues. Donors also noted the need to improve
collaboration and cost reduction.
Donor Feedback
11. In a postmortem donors only meeting, participants were
encouraged with ECOWAS progress over the last year, and indicated
their willingness to continue supporting ECOWAS and its programs.
Donors wanted more detailed reporting on achievements than agreed
objectives and targets to judge if progress was made. For next
year, the Donors agreed to push the Commission to circulate a
preliminary version of the ECOWAS Commission President's Annual
report and the Financial Controller's Annual Report prior to next
year's ECOWAS Donors Meeting.
12. The donors also stressed the need for Pool Fund reports to
include quarterly progress updates on NEPAD consultants work plans;
that the ECOWAS 2008 budget show donor contribution to all major
ECOWAS activities, and a breakdown of how the community levy and
donor contribution are allocated to all ECOWAS institutions. The
Finnish Ambassador made the point that ECOWAS needs to move faster
in addressing food security, desertification and trade
competitiveness issues. The representative from Sweden highlighted
the need for ECOWAS to identify areas where donors could be of
assistance to accelerate the ongoing recruitment exercise. The
Canadian representative pointed out the need for advocacy from
donors on regional integration within those countries where they
have a diplomatic presence. The French Ambassador stressed that
integration ultimately would have to be implemented by member
13. The World Bank representative suggested that ECOWAS
presentations should have covered more of their key achievements
especially in agriculture and transportation. The WB recommended
that the donors work with ECOWAS on developing an agreed upon
format, agenda, and timing for future meetings with greater emphasis
on thematic sessions and more substantive discussion on the progress
of ECOWAS programs. He asked donors to encourage their country
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directors and representatives in ECOWAS member states to encourage
country support for regional integration. He emphasized the point
that most poverty reduction strategy programs of ECOWAS member
states don't address or include discussion on regional integration.
He strongly encouraged donor country teams in ECOWAS member states
indicate how they will contribute to regional integration and make
sure that this topic is included in the bilateral country dialogue.
14. The Ambassador from Denmark stated that ECOWAS member states
have a different role with ECOWAS than the donors have with ECOWAS.
The Ambassador suggested that donors should be asking what kind of
tripod relationship do donors want to have with ECOWAS and member
states. The Danish Ambassador agreed with the WB representative
that donors should do a study on the bottlenecks in implementing or
achieving key ECOWAS priorities.
Moving Forward
15. Donors agreed that ECOWAS needs to give more attention to
implementing its capacity building programs and finalizing its
Medium Term Plan so donors can move from ad hoc contributions to an
improved coordinated approach with expanded funding. Donors also
agreed that ECOWAS needs to clarify the linkages between external
initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, NEPAD, the
ECOWAS Vision 2020 plan, the Medium Term Plan and their Capacity
Building Program.
16. Other areas identified by donors needing immediate attention
from the ECOWAS Commission include:
-- completing the ECOWAS Communication Strategy by June 30, 2008;
-- completing the ECOWAS Tender Code revision by March 30, 2008;
-- recognizing and planning for the role of member states in the
design and implementation of ECOWAS programs;
-- professionalizing ECOWAS staff through adequate capacity
-- increasing the use and effectiveness of thematic groups by
nominating an ECOWAS focal point for each group to animate meetings
17. The success of ECOWAS in achieving its vision of full regional
integration depends on the political will of member states to adopt
and implement agreed upon ECOWAS supported policy reforms and policy
frameworks to advance economic integration and free trade. Progress
from the Commission has been slowed by inadequate staffing and
limited capacity to address technical issues related to economic
integration. For future meetings, donors should encourage ECOWAS to
provide more documentation to measure clearly program achievements
and results and to better identify donor contribution and assistance
to relevant programs and projects.
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