From 2008-2009, HFP worked in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission in order to assess its long-term planning capacity during its restructuring and expansion (The ECOWAS Strategic Capacity Analysis project). The aim of this report is to present some preliminary findings as to the institutional challenges that ECOWAS as an inter-governmental organisation (IGO) will face in addressing these challenges of future conflict and humanitarian crises. The drivers of such crises have been analysed and presented in far greater depth in a separate publication (Beyond 2020: Crisis Drivers in West Africa’s Future).

Based on a series of interviews with a wide range of ECOWAS personnel, this report makes a preliminary assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation as it attempts to prevent conflict and manage crises in the long term. As with the rest of the project, this report responds specifically to Component 13 of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) on Humanitarian Assistance, and its undertakings to: build up capacities for humanitarian strategic planning; enhance the capacity of the Early Warning System to relate political, socio-economic and geophysical trends to humanitarian crisis propensities; and to mainstream humanitarian crisis prevention, preparedness and response activities into the ECOWAS peace and security architecture. It also responds explicitly to the Policy for DRR’s prioritisation of expanding, coordinating and harmonising ECOWAS early warning systems to incorporate humanitarian issues.

This report served as the basis for the design of a 3-year project with ECOWAS, funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, that aims to build the capacities of the ECOWAS Commission to plan, prepare for and respond to new and evolving humanitarian crises in the West African region. For more on the FOREWARN Initiative, click here.