ECOWAS, UN join forces in counter-terrorism effort

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Terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa are specific targets of a just-confirmed memorandum of understanding (MoU) between regional bloc ECOWAS and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT).

Signed in New York during the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this month (September) the MoU sets up a framework for co-operation between the Economic Community of West African States and the world body’s specialist counter-terror office.

Over the next five years the MoU will see joint efforts on security and counter-terrorism initiatives. They include preventative efforts to counter terrorist travel, financing, access to weapons and misuse of information and communications technologies; border security and management; prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration (PRR) and delivery of counter-terrorism training programmes in Africa. The agreement further makes provision for UNOCT support to ECOWAS and its member states in implementing the ECOWAS 2020/2024 action plan on eradicating terrorism.

Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov welcomed the signing, noting it as a pivotal moment establishing a comprehensive co-operation framework for five years.

Dr Omar Touray, ECOWAS Commission President, expressed the West African bloc’s commitment to collaboration with the UN through UNOCT. It would, he said, address multi-faceted dimensions of terrorism, including root causes such as youth empowerment, the fight against human rights violations and governance deficits.

Post the signing, ECOWAS and UNOCT will develop a joint plan of action to put the agreement into practice, building on existing co-ordination platforms, such as the AU-UN technical working group on counter-terrorism and the UN Global Programme on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE).

They will develop and undertake joint or collaborative activities with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Co-ordination Compact. Jointly organised workshops, conferences or other meetings and activities on topics and issues related to CT/PCVE will bring together stakeholders at global, regional and national levels.

On 21 September, ECOWAS participated in a ministerial level meeting co-organised by Nigeria and UNOCT of UN African Member States on “Strengthening regional co-operation and institution building to address the evolving threat of terrorism in Africa”.

The meeting provided African UN members and regional organisations the opportunity to share views on prevailing terrorism threat scenarios in Africa and propose actionable and outcome-oriented recommendations for the African Counter-Terrorism Summit. Known as the Abuja Summit and co-organised by UNOCT and Nigeria, it will be held in the Nigerian capital next April. The summit, according to an ECOWAS statement, will seek to enhance multilateral counter-terrorism co-operation and reshape the international community’s collective response to terrorism in Africa.