Friday, March 19, 2010

ECOWAS Cross Border Meeting Winds Up

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-A two-day national cross-border workshop organised jointly by the Gambia government and ECOWAS under the auspices of the ECOWAS Cross Border Cooperation and Initiative ended on 2 March 2010 at the Baobab Holiday Resort.
The workshop brought together senior government officials, mayors, the Governor Western Region, chief executive officers, councilors, cross-border stakeholders, the press, civil society organisations, and ECOWAS officials, among others.
The workshop aimed at sensitising national and local actors and stakeholders on efforts being pursued by the ECOWAS Commission and its development partners in promoting and strengthening cross-border cooperation in West Africa under the framework of the ECOWAS Cross-Boarder Cooperation Programme.
At the end of the forum, a road map for the implementation of the cross-border cooperation (CBC) programme and plan of action for the period 2010 –2013 was developed by participants.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, the Minister for Local Government and Lands, Pierre Tamba, commended the ECOWAS Commission for partnering with the Gambia government in organising the workshop.
‘It is my sincere hope that such collaboration will continue in the spirit of the framework of cooperation between the government and ECOWAS”.
He congratulated the two working groups of participants for coming up with concrete proposals for the institutional framework and the road map and plan of action for the implementation of cross-border programmes and initiatives in various countries.
Minister Tamba assured ECOWAS and participants of his Ministry’s continued support in the perusal, formalisation, adoption, implementation and monitoring of all the recommendations that were adopted.
“The road is long, but with perseverance and determination, we will get there”, he said, and thanked the participants for the positive, mature and professional manner in which they participated in the workshop.

In an interview with journalists, the head of the ECOWAS cross-border cooperation programme, Kinza Jawara-Njai, described the two-day workshop as “very positive” adding that the participants have participated fully, as expected.
The ECOWAS official was asked by this reporter to dwell on the plan of action, objectives, activities, expected outcomes and institution in charge.
She said that in order to implement the programme by the Department of Trade, Customs, Industry, Free Movement and Tourism under the Directorate of Free Movement and Tourism there is need for preparation of relevant development projects in all areas of development.
The main goal or the overall objective is to improve the standard of living of the marginalised inhabitants of common border areas who are strategic partners in development.
Among the objectives is to encourage identification, design and implementation of cross-border cooperation projects and programmes in all development sectors such as education, health, agriculture, trade, peace and security, environment and natural resources. Also art and culture, and to promote free movement of persons, goods, capital and services.
Kinza Jawara-Ngai told journalists that the cross-border initiative is a cross cutting issue, adding that governments will identify programmes and ECOWAS will give the support but not identify programmes.
Ms Jawara-Njai added that for the action plan 2010-2013, they want all stakeholders to be involved in the process of development.
“We will start the pilot project in Western Region because the region has a border with Senegal’s Casamance region”.
During the timeframe set, a strong West African Network of actors and media on cross border cooperation will be established, as well as encouraging the strong involvement of states in the effective operationalisation of existing cross border cooperation actors in their areas, as well as adopt joint decisions to execute projects, she further said.
“We want the participation of the grass-roots, and their better understanding of all our activities”.
The institutions in charge, she said, are ECOWAS member states and local stakeholders, and the timeframe will be short term and long term.
Ms Jawara-Ngai called on the media to continue playing their pivotal role in educating and informing the people about the cross-border cooperation at the grass roots level.
On some of the challenges faced by ECOWAS, Ms Jawara-Njai said that these include the provision of information and sensitisation of countries at the grass-roots level.
The media is not giving prominence to coverage of cross border issues, she said, but added that “with your participation in the two-day forum, “now you need to be more active”, she advised the group of journalists.
She also recognised the full participation of journalists, and called on them to be always participating in ECOWAS programmes.
According to the ECOWAS official, the workshop was convened at an opportune moment for the commission, stating that “recently we have concluded a series of meetings with various stakeholders at regional and international levels”.
The last such meeting, she told journalists, was with ECOWAS parliamentarians in Abuja in May 2009 at the headquarters of the ECOWAS Commission.

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