By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), the umbrella organisation of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) in West Africa, will hold its 6th Biennial General Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria between 6-7 August, 2019.
This will be preceded on Monday 5th August by an International Symposium on the Promotion of Inclusivity in the Electoral Process.
According to a statement by the Head of Communications, ECONEC, Mr Paul Ejime, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is expected to officially declare the symposium open.
Other dignitaries expected to grace the occasion include Nigeria’s Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, Vice-President Finda Koroma, Secretary General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, and the Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Ketil Karlson.
The twin events is organised by ECONEC in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria and the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) with funding from the EU and the German Government.
The symposium will provide a platform to discuss the legal frameworks and desirable practical steps for enhancing the participation and representation of women, youth and Persons with Disability (PWDs) in the electoral process in West Africa.
The ECOWAS Commission and EMBs in West Africa set up ECONEC in 2008, among other objectives to promote free and credible elections; promote independent and impartial election organisations and administrators; strengthen public confidence in the electoral process through free and credible electoral procedures, and to develop a crop of professional election personnel with integrity, a strong sense ofpublic service and commitment to democracy.
The other objectives are to bring predictability to the framework for elections; engender commitment to the promotion and consolidation of democratic culture to create a conducive environment for the peaceful organization of elections; encourage the sharing of experiences, information, technology and election Documents by EMBs and cooperation for the improvement of electoral laws and practices.
The Network is also mandated to promote gradual harmonization of electoral laws and practices, as appropriate, capitalizing on good practice in electoral matters; rationalization and pooling of resources to reduce the cost of conducting elections; and to improve the working conditions of its members in the fulfilment of their mandate.
After several years of difficult existence due to poor funding and lack of a functional Secretariat, the ECONEC governing board elected in March 2017 at its 5th General Assembly in Cotonou, Benin Republic, has managed to turn the fortunes of the Network around, raising its profile and visibility with demonstrable implementation of impactful activities.
The agenda of the 6th General Assembly includes the election of a board to replace the outgoing five-member team headed by Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Chair of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).