UNOWAS has been requested to promote good governance and respect for the rule of law, human rights, and gender mainstreaming in West Africa and the Sahel, through advocacy and advisory initiatives in close collaboration with ECOWAS, the MRU and sub-regional networks of the civil society actors and in collaboration with national and sub-regional stakeholders.
UNOWAS’s engagement strategy is situated in the context of implementing Secretary-General’s Rights Up Front initiative in West Africa and the Sahel; and supporting implementation of relevant normative frameworks adopted by the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the Mano River Union. Within the framework of these instruments, UNOWAS worked with these institutions in five main directions:
- Combatting impunity following violation of human rights as a predicament for sustainable peace and stability in the region, through the joint organization of a high level conference on Impunity, Justice and Human Rights in Bamako (Mali in November 2011) followed by a series of regional seminars for media professionals and civil society organisations.
- Promoting free and fair elections as a fundamental rights; through the joint organization of a high level conference on Elections and Stability in West Africa in Praia (Cabo Verde, 2010)
- Engaging citizens and civil society organization as a means of promoting ownership, popular participation on issues ranging from violence-free elections, respect for fundamental rights, including the management of natural resources, addressing youth unemployment etc….. Sessions of the African (Union) Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have served as Prime Avenue for such capacity building and information sharing activities with civil society organisations.
- Producing thematic issue papers and policy briefs on civil and political rights (role of security forces in elections, tools for human rights analysis during electoral processes) as well as socio-economic and cultural rights (youth unemployment, climate change, management of natural resources).
- Consultations with networks of civil society organisations in West Africa and the Sahel; at senior and desk-to-desk levels with ECOWAS Commission and the MRU Secretariat on human rights, governance and rule of law.
Mainstream human rights in the response to regional challenges to peace and stability including election-triggered violence, attempt of constitutional amendment prior to elections, dealing with the Ebola Virus Disease especially in the Mano River basin and the Boko Haram-related insecurity in Lake Chad basin.