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By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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ABUJA, Nigeria, February 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The ECOWAS Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a Project Implementation Agreement (PIA) with 10 training institutions on peace and security in the region, as part of efforts to strengthen the capacities of the institutions.

A key objective of the MoU is to strengthen the training pillars of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF), ECOWAS Institutions, Member States and Civil Society Organizations for the prevention and resolution of conflicts in the region, and to develop a full range of training at all levels, cutting across a broad spectrum including Military, Police, Civilian and Humanitarian issues.

This is in line with the regional Peace Support Operations (PSO) Concepts and the need for effective capacity building, particularly with reference to the recommendation of the 4th Defence and Security Commission meeting of August 2002 in Cote d'Ivoire, calling for the establishment of Tactical, Operational and Strategic training facilities within the region.

The MoU seeks to create the modalities for enhancing demand-driven PSO training capacity building, operational relationship, coherence and coordination between ECOWAS and the Training Institutions for their efficient and effective functioning in support of the strengthening of the training pillars of ESF;

According to the document, the Training Institutions are to operate as regional PSO Training Institutions for the strengthening of the ESF training pillars with support from ECOWAS in their staffing, curriculum development and any other areas as needed.

The Training Institutions are mandated to develop their curriculum on PSO in consultation with ECOWAS, taking into account the National, ECOWAS and African Union priority training needs regarding the African Standby Force (ASF).

Where appropriate, ECOWAS shall provide technical inputs into the development of the curriculum in response to respond to regional needs, consistent with the Standardized Training Modules (STM) developed by the United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) Integrated Training Service.

The Project Implementation Agreement, on the other hand, equally takes into cognizance relevant provisions of the Regional Protocol on Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, as well as the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance relating to the role of the Armed Forces, Police and the Security Forces in the democracy within the region.

It stresses the need to develop the capacities of the Commission and ECOWAS institutions, Member States, training institutions, and civil society organizations in the West African region in the promotion of Peace and Security and resolution of conflicts.

The purpose of the PIA is to set out the modalities for the relationship between ECOWAS and the Training Institutions with respect to the implementation, by the latter, of the European Union support to selected West Africa Training Institution Project, which aims to develop the capacities of the stakeholders on Peace and Security matters.

The EU supported Project to the Training Institutions falls within the Africa Peace Facility under the 10th European Development Fund. The project is being coordinated by the ECOWAS Peace Fund.

The Agreement defines the parameters for the disbursement and the utilization of the grant, the reporting procedures, the implementation by the recipients and follow-up actions.

Speaking on behalf of heads of Training Institutions after the signing of the MoU and the PIA, Colonel Guy Youga Thiaw, Commandant of Senegal's Centre for Advance Training of Mobile Gendarmerie, thanked the ECOWAS Commission and partners for their continued support. He pledged the commitment of the institutions to deliver on their mandate.

The signing of the MoU and PIA at the Commission's Abuja headquarters on 8th February 2013, marked the end of the two-day Joint Coordination Meeting (JCM) between officials of the Commission and the training institutions.

Speaking on behalf of the President of the Commission, Vice-President, Dr. Toga McIntosh, who presided over the signing ceremony, thanked development partners, especially the EU and the AU for their support and urged the heads of the training institutions to operationalize the MoU and the PIA, for the promotion of peace and stability in the region.

While declaring the meeting open the previous day, he stressed the need for stakeholders to strategize and coordinate their efforts in addressing the key challenges hampering collaboration with respect to capacity development on peace and security in the region.

The Vice-President enjoined the training institutions to take full advantage of the support provided by the project to construct a sustainable partnership which will take the region to the next level, adding that their areas of expertise should “help build a better West Africa, and a peaceful Africa.”

Speaking on behalf of the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, the Chief of Staff, ECOWAS Standby Force, General Hassan Lai, said the meeting could not have come at a more appropriate moment, when the region “is confronted with new forms of security challenges which require the reorientation of our security posture and the building of specialized capacities to confront them.”

The AU representative Mr. Iyah Onuk and his EU counterpart Mr. Emmanuel Gorin, both commended the Commission for its peace and security initiatives and pledged their organizations' continued commitment and support to the initiatives.