In its 2020 Vision, ECOWAS declares itself to be an ECOWAS of Peoples, not States, and outlines a vision of a more prosperous and peaceful region in which policies are aligned to the interests of the future stakeholders of West Africa: its children and young people. In order to realise this vision, the ECOWAS Commission will need to look beyond 2020 to consider and prepare for the new economic, environmental and political challenges that will be faced by future generations in the region. Viewed within this context, ECOWAS’ role in reducing risk and supporting resilience in West Africa over the long term will be crucial, and the Commission’s ability to anticipate, adapt, innovate, collaborate and think strategically about risk will determine how well it can fulfil that role.

To support the ECOWAS Commission in understanding its potential for effective humanitarian action over the long-term, the Humanitarian Futures Programme has carried out two assessments of the ECOWAS Commission over a four-year period.

During the first phase of HFP’s work with ECOWAS in 2008-2009, interviews were held with a wide range of stakeholders to make a preliminary assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation. Overall, respondents found ECOWAS to have been adaptive and innovative in restructuring itself to address contingent security challenges, open to engagement with civil society and effective in crisis response and early warning, although primarily in the short-term. It was proactive in its strategic policies on conflict prevention and DRR, although these were partially implemented. Weaknesses include short-term planning as a result of a crisis-driven agenda, sovereignty constraints that militate against proactive operationalisation of conflict prevention and DRR strategies at the Member State level, increased compartmentalisation of conflict and humanitarian crisis management bodies within the expanded Commission structure, and severe capacity restraints within ECOWAS’ emergent humanitarian response mechanisms.  Click here to read the 2008-2009 Capacity Report

Using this data as a baseline, HFP undertook a second assessment of the Commission using its Organisational Self-Assessment Tool (OSAT). The valued function of the OSAT is to help an organisation systematically think about its capacity to deal with the humanitarian challenges and opportunities of the future.  It is framed around five critical capacities: strategic leadership and the ability to be anticipatory, adaptive, innovative and collaborative. The OSAT questionnaire measures these capacities through a set of indicators covering several areas of organizational performance, structure and management, including information management systems and practices, policy and strategy, human resources, quality and performance management systems, informal organizational culture, and stakeholder relationships. Survey data is analysed by the HFP team and then presented and discussed with organisational staff on a one-to-one basis and in a structured workshop. The OSAT has been administered to 15 other partner organisations including USAID, BRAC, the UNIASC and UN Country Teams. – click here for more information

The OSAT methodology was implemented in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission in three stages from October 2012—October 2013. In Stage 1, the OSAT was revised to include items specific to the West African risk context and an overview of the OSAT and its methodology was presented at the Commission. 46 questionnaires were distributed to staff at the Director, PPO, Analyst and Consultant level across 11 Directorates. Stage 1 concluded with the collation of the surveys and one-on-one interviews with seven members of staff who were unable to complete the questionnaire owing to time constraints.

During Stage 2, HFP staff analysed the quantitative data, producing preliminary results which were presented to a workshop of OSAT participants in Abuja at the DRR Leadership/OSAT workshop from 26-27 March 2013. This provided an opportunity for ECOWAS staff to debate and provide context to the analysis, discuss discrepancies in some of the preliminary findings and identify priority areas of concern raised by the data.

In Stage 3, draft findings and recommendations were presented to Directorate representatives and to the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission during a HFP-DARA mission to Abuja 15-18 April 2013 for the FOREWARN-sponsored and ECOWAS-hosted Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Mapping Exercise. A subsequent dissemination of the penultimate draft took place for the FOREWARN Steering Committee Meeting on 29 October 2013. This final report was produced based on feedback during these meetings. The recommendations within the report have been developed in discussion with members of staff at the ECOWAS Commission as well as FOREWARN partners and seek to build on opportunities and address gaps identified by ECOWAS staff as crucial for supporting more effective futures-oriented planning.