"African Union Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) meet presents possible research opportunity for MISR". - Omaada Esibo

Venue: African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Date: 30 - 31 March. 2015

A recent workshop held at the AU headquarters and attended by with Simon Omaada Esibo (PHD Student) on behalf of MISR, could have presented a research opportunity (on the subject of Early Warning for Peace and Security) for the Institute.

The workshop titled  “Continental Early Warning Systems (CEWS) – CSOs Workshop" had some Regional Economic Communities (RECs) like IGAD, COMESA and SADC  also represented. As such, the workshop was composed of the representatives of African Union’s Security Council Secretariat, African Union’s Early Warning System, Regional Economic Communities and CSOs. The term CSOs was used as a generic denomination that designated non-governmental organizations, research institutions, academic institutions, and faith based organizations.

The event was a continuation of a series of workshops and meetings that have been convened by the AU Commission since 2003. This recent event was a continuation of the consultative workshop held on 29th – 30th May 2012 at AU Headquarters between CEWS in partnership with the RECS and in consultation with CSOs with a view to enhance collaboration between the CEWS and CSOs.

The opening remarks underlined governments' fire fighting approach to conflict, and the CSOs  "informer" role for governments, since they are the alternative representatives of the people. This was followed by the presentation on the CEWS and an open discussion on these. In this presentation, the need for regular representatives of CSOs in business with CEWS was underscored, and the role of the CSOs in informing the governments as early warning givers on the emerging conflicts was emphasized. The first session ended with the presentation on the Livingston Formula and an open discussion. This formula involves the lifting of the previous 50% domestic funding of CSOs in order for them to have business with CEWS to 0% domestic funding. The removal of this requirement opened room for all CSOs to have business with the CEWS on the question of Early Warning. As such, CSOs were given a mandate to provide information concerning Early Warning to CEWS and the governments. However, this mandate raised questions that persisted throughout the workshop. e.g. "Why should CSOs provide Early Warning information if they are not assured of Early Response from the governments, RECS, and CEWS? The response from CEWS representatives was caution that CSOs should desist from demanding Early Response because this may be wrongly perveived by governments. Unfortunately, this was not well received by the CSOs.

The workshop featured experience sharing by the RECs (ECOWAS, IGAD, COMESA). This was followed by an open discussion and a question and answer session during which it emerged that the RECS in North Africa are not functional. Therefore, CEWS sought for modalities to deal directly with CSOs from this part of Africa. It also emerged that SADC does not cooperate with CSOs on the question of Early Warning Systems. The discussion was followed by the presentation on mechanisms for information sharing (Africa Reporter). In the discussion, it emerged that Africa Reporter is a tool that provides regular reporting and assessment and it requires thorough commitment to regular reporting. The Swiss Peace Foundation used this tool first, then AU acquired it. As such, the tool was not developed in Africa, and questions were raised on the implications of this acquisition of a tool developed from somewhere else and its being used in Africa.

At the end of the 2 day workshop,  it was recommended that CSOs will participate in two areas:

1) Data collection for Early Warning System, and

2) Research: - It was agreed that in order to do data collection and research, CSOs need coordination at regional and continental levels. It was also agreed that to be able to do data collection and research, there has to be some training on the harmonization of methodologies.

On a practical level, Peace and Security Institute representative proposed this institute to coordinate the CSOs activities at continental level. IPSS (from East Africa), CBR (from Uganda), and the Catholic University from Central Africa were proposed to coordinate the CSOs activities at regional level. It was emphasized that research should be restricted to conflict prevention and early warning.

As an Institute for Social Research, MISR falls under the thematic research component and the possibility for research is something that will be investigated further for possible consideration.



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