Working towards operationalising a Panel of Elders for ECCAS for effective mediation in the Central African region.
ACCORD, in collaboration with ECCAS convened a Consultation Workshop for the Establishment of the ECCAS Panel of Elders in Durban, South Africa from 16-17 July 2018. The consultation was a significant engagement that served as a platform to explore, discuss and share experiences and lessons on the establishment and implementation of Panels or Councils of Elders on the continent and using the outcome of deliberations to inform discussions and processes within ECCAS towards the establishment of the ECCAS Panel of Elders.
With a targeted audience of individuals who manage these Councils/Panels as well as those who serves as Members to these Councils/Panels, participants at the consultation represented the various Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC); East African Community (EAC) as well as ECCAS. The United Nations Department of Political Affairs was also represented in the workshop.
The two-day consultations provided insight into the establishment and operationalisation of the Councils of Elders within the RECs/RMs to enable ECCAS gain better foresight into the actions and initiatives that are required towards this process. The lessons learned and best practices thus looked at some of the recommended steps that need to be taken, such as: ownership of the process; having a set of criteria as part of the selection process; a Terms of Reference for the panel, which would largely depend on the situation they are faced with; the development of a strategy document that will be used as a guideline; as well as undertaking training for the panel members in order to ensure they are ready for deployment.
Key recommendations towards the operationalisation of the panel included: provisioning for logistics and security; adequate funding to enable movement and deployment; a strong secretariat that includes resourceful people and technical experts; a team of experts to support the mediators or panel members; ensuring stronger collaboration and support between the various RECs/RMs in a crisis situation; having good early warning systems in place with analysts and researchers on the ground, who will be able to identify potential conflict situations that can arise; developing an assessment matrix that seeks to measure success of the intervention; and Joint RECs/RMs missions, to provide innovative means and ways to handle sensitive issues such as post-election and the recurrence of violence.
The deliberations were a valuable source of information and support to ECCAS, this led to a better understanding of what needs to be done as they embark on establishing its Panel of Elders. As part of its commitment to support RECs/RMs in enhancing mediation capacities, this initiative is part of ACCORD’s support to ECCAS. It thus fulfils a key objective within the organisations to facilitate the support for conflict management interventions in conflict affected societies. ACCORD will continue to work with ECCAS to provide the necessary support in this crucial process.