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By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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MONROVIA, Liberia, May 7, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The pioneer ECOWAS Volunteers made of young specialists in various fields of human endeavour are to receive a week-long induction training in Monrovia, Liberia from Monday, 7th May 2012 for their deployment in the country within the framework of regional initiative to strengthen peace-building, national reconstruction and accelerated development in Member States.

The opening ceremony of the induction of some 23 volunteers will be graced by government ministers, top ECOWAS officials and representatives of partners involved in the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme (EVP) through an agreement signed with the ECOWAS Commission for the pilot phase of the scheme.

Partners supporting the programme include the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV), UNESCO, the UN High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) and the European Union.

In line with its Vision 2020, ECOWAS set up the Volunteer Programme that cuts across all areas/sectors of activities of the ECOWAS Commission and other Community institutions to serve the needs of Member States.

The volunteers, men and women aged between 18 and 35 years from the region, with the capacity to adapt to different social, cultural and political environments, are to be deployed in community-based associations, national and international non-governmental organizations and specialized agencies that are active in socio-economic, cultural, political and humanitarian work.

The programme seeks to consolidate peace, recovery, national reconciliation and rehabilitation in crisis-affected communities, with the volunteer corps strengthening the capacities of local organizations by assisting them in the development and implementation of core projects and programmes.

This initiative complements existing programmes for peace-building and national volunteer programmes, with the purpose of addressing the structural causes of vulnerability, instability or outbreaks of violence in the region.

Other key roles of the ECOWAS volunteers include promoting a culture of peace and gender equality in their host communities, establishing and supporting partnerships between communities, linking up communities with technical and financial support services and networking and collaborating with development partners.

With a joint agreement signed in November 2004 between the ECOWAS Commission and the African Development Bank within the framework of the Support to ECOWAS for Peace and Development Project (PADEP) under the ECOWAS Peace Fund, the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme effectively started in 2006 with fact-finding missions to five Member States – Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo.

This was followed by the official launch of the programme in March 2010 in Monrovia by the President of the ECOWAS Commission.

To encourage national ownership and sustainability of the programme, efforts have been made to strengthen collaboration with stakeholders in Member States, including governments and relevant ministries/agencies, civil society organizations, private sector, development partners and donors, among others.

The Volunteer Programme is designed to cover the 15 Member States in the long-term.

Altogether, some 160 volunteers will be selected for the pilot phase in four countries – Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This is estimated to cost more than US$5.3 million, out of which the African Development Bank has graciously donated US$3 million, the European Union EUR420,000 and United Nations Volunteers US$300,000.