The Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) has begun the process of implementing the Convergence Plan for the Sustainable Management and Utilization of the Forest Ecosystems in West Africa. The plan was adopted during a Meeting of Ministers responsible for Forestry and the Environment held on 9 -12 September, 2013 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, attended by the AFF Executive Secretary, Prof. Godwin Kowero.
As a follow-up to this meeting, ECOWAS member states convened a three-day meeting in Lomé, Togo Republic, on 4-6 March 2014 to develop the architecture for implementing the plan. The African Forest Forum (AFF) was represented at this meeting by its Senior Program Officer, Prof. Mahamane Larwanou. The meeting was attended by the following ECOWAS Member States ; Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte dIvoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo and by sub-regional and international organisations, namely the AfDB, EBID, CILSS, UEMOA, ECOWAS, the IUCN, FAO, USAID, ENDA, the African Forest Forum and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, ENDA and resource persons. The objectives of the meeting were:
recall the Priority Intervention Areas of the Logical Framework and funding mechanisms for the implementation of the Convergence Plan for Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in West Africa;
present the draft outlines of transboundary and shared initiatives of member countries as part of the implementation of the FCP in West Africa in the short and medium term (2015-2019);
explore opportunities for the development of partnerships and cooperation frameworks for a collaborative implementation based on shared responsibilities and roles among the different stakeholders according to Priority Intervention Areas (PIA) and/or intermediate results of the FCP WA Logical Framework.
make recommendations for the operational implementation of the Forest Convergence Plan in West Africa.
The meeting enabled stakeholders (Member States, IGOs, International Organisations and CSOs) to forge a common understanding on FCP with regard to:
the need to establish an appropriate financing mechanism;
the effective involvement of countries in financing the implementation of the FCP;
the capacity building of CSOs;
the design of a roadmap to ensure monitoring of the process with the temporary identification of team leaders of thematic groups based on principles and criteria proposed by the meeting, as well as the formulation of terms of reference (ToR) of each thematic group within a reasonable period of time, organization of the first meeting of each thematic group for the validation of the ToR, choice of team leaders and the operational launching of the implementation of the FCP.
To move the process forward, ECOWAS was mandated by member states to:
identify thematic team leaders based on principles and criteria proposed at the meeting;,
outline the ToR for each thematic group,
support member states in paying interest on facilities,
organize the first meeting of each thematic group for the validation of the ToRs of thematic groups, selection of team leaders and the actual launching of the implementation of the FCP;
monitor the conditionalities for financing forestry projects by different funding organisations, inform member states about them and interpret to them as often as the case may be
develop a strategy for resource mobilization for the FCP,
establish a group of partners for the environmental sector,
develop an effective communication strategy.
Other recommendations emanating from the meeting were:
civil society groups should be involved in development of proposals for the implementation of the convergence plan,
member states should demonstrate more commitment to the process,
the private sector should be brought on board in this process,
improve communication and cooperation between regional bodies.