Regional Economic Communities in Africa as a Conflict Mitigation Mechanism: The Case of the Economic Community of West African States
Date of Submission
Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)
Sherrill W. Hayes, Ph.D.
Brandon D. Lundy, Ph.D.
Nurudeen Akinyemi, Ph.D
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the regional institution mandated to develop economic and political integration between its 15 member states. ECOWAS expanded its mandate in the 1990s to include conflict prevention and mitigation. The Council of the Wise, a group of respected elders from ECOWAS member states, was created to engage in preventive diplomacy and is a unique institution based on African cultures’ respect for elders as mediators. The research question for this dissertation was: “What is the role of ECOWAS and the Council of the Wise in transforming conflict in West Africa, especially in Mali?” To explore this question, the researcher examined (1): the relationship between climate change, population growth, and conflict across West Africa; (2) the role of culture in the Malian conflict; and (3) perspectives of experts on the Council of the Wise’s role in mitigating the conflict in Mali. The methods included data abstraction from academic and policy documents and semi-structured interviews/focus group discussions with 80 international and regional conflict mitigation experts from academia, military, civil society, and communities, primarily in West Africa. The results of the study revealed a complex set of factors contribute to the conflict in Mali, and while the Council of the Wise is highly regarded as a culturally appropriate method of third-party preventive diplomacy, it suffers from lack of support. The conclusions include recommendations such as: ensuring adequate financing and logistical support, revising the selection criteria for Council members, providing tailored conflict prevention training, and documenting Council activities.
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