Friday, March 19, 2010

Maiden National Forum On ECOWAS Cross Border Programme

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The Gambia government in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission organised a two-day national forum at the Baobab Holiday Resort from 1 to 2 March 2010.
The aim was the sensitisation of 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 Border Cooperation Programme.
In her statement delivered at the official opening, the head of ECOWAS Cross-Border Programme, Kinza Jawara-Njai, thanked the Gambia government for hosting the forum on advancing West African cross-border cooperation and sub-regional integration.
Ms Jawara-Njai explained that the concept of cross-border cooperation (CBC) or 'local integration' was introduced and officially adopted onto the integration agenda of ECOWAS following a decision by the EOWAS Authority taken in Niamey, Niger, in January 2006 which called for development of cross-border cooperation within the West African sub-region.
She explained that the cross-border programme has been developed by ECOWAS as a new pillar for sub-regional cooperation and development, aimed at accelerating the integration process in West Africa.
She reminded participants that in June 2007, ECOWAS leaders adopted a strategic vision with a view to transforming West Africa into a "border-less region".
The implementation of the new vision's strategic plan, Ms Jawara Njai noted, focuses on bringing citizens of West Africa closer together. The aim of the plan is to move from an ECOWAS of states to an ECOWAS of peoples thereby ensuring a "people-centred ECOWAS" by the year 2020.
The CBC also aims at bringing the regional integration process and local populations closer together, mainly to demarginalize border areas, reduced poverty and achieve rapid socio economic development and integration in the sub-region through the creation of concrete and feasible joint development projects, in all sectors, that are achievable within short time limits, in order to promote and consolidate peace, security, stability and development in the entire sub-region in general, she remarked.
"We are well aware that populations in West Africa border regions have for centuries lived and worked closely together, have always enjoyed cordial ties of friendly cooperation, engaged in informal bilateral trade and exchange, intermarry and to this present day continue to enjoy a natural solidarity.
"Inhabitants of border regions generally share the same socio-cultural values and norms and this commonality indeed is recognized as a foundation for the attainment of the desired regional economic, social and cultural integration. ECOWAS is working hard to realize in collaboration with its various development the cross-border cooperation initiative concept within West Africa".
In this regard, adoption of the strategy is a concrete response to the dire need for the acceleration of the regional integration process within the sub-region, she went on.
The cross border cooperation programme and its modus operandi' the cross border initiative programme serves as an important tool to achieve the new vision of ECOWAS and this, Ms Jawara-Njai revealed, is why the programme has become a major component of the development agenda of ECOWAS, and is also integrated in the strategic plan of the Commission.
Implementation of the programme calls for preparation of relevant development projects in all areas of development with the overall objective of improving the standard of living of the often marginalized inhabitants of common border areas who are strategic partners in development. The cross-border initiative programme, she further mentioned, due to its cross-cutting nature provides a good opportunity for positive promotion of peace, security and good neighbourly relations among citizens of West Africa, and for regional institutional building in order to achieve rapid socio economic and cultural integration and development in the region.
"It is against this backdrop that the first national forum is being held", she added, and called on the participants to pursue the ongoing exchange with various stakeholders to put the programme on a firm pedestal with the active involvement of all actors in order to realise its stated objectives.
"As national partners in development and policy makers in your various domains, and at the national level, the ECOWAS Commission is of a firm belief that you have a major role to play in the implementation of the programme in the region, and particularly in your country and the southern Senegambia zone".
"We hope that you will provide the necessary leadership, support and commitment required to attain the programme's stated objectives.
"We have no doubt that with your zeal as representatives of the communities, societies, organisations and institutions and your ardent desire to bring about meaningful change and development in the lives of ordinary citizenry, especially inhabitants of border regions, you will partner with your government, the ECOWAS Commission and all involved in the implementation of the programme in order to ensure its success", she urged.
She also recognised the good that has been done in the past years by institutions, organisations and societies.
"I wish to seize this opportunity to recognise the untiring efforts of all partners in development who have contributed immensely to the operationalization of the programme in West Africa and especially in your zone, the southern Senegambia, in particular.
The Minister for Local Government and Lands, Pierre B. Tamba, hailed the ECOWAS Commission for partnering with the government in organising this maiden national meeting on the ECOWAS cross-border cooperation programme.
He also spoke at length about the importance of he meeting, and told all actors to play their roles and responsibilities in achieving the aims and objectives of the programme.

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