The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), in partnership with the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR), has commenced a 2-week humanitarian assistance provision course, for a group of experts and practitioners working in Africa, to strengthen individual capacities in national and regional institutions, to respond effectively to humanitarian crises in West Africa.
The capacity building course labelled “Humanitarian Assistance and Women, Peace, Security in West Africa Core Course” (HAWA CC), commenced on Monday, 16 May, 2022, at the KAIPTC, with 32 participants of military, police, Fire Service and civilian personnel from Austria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, The Gambia and the United States of America.
The Deputy Commandant, KAIPTC – Air Commodore (A/Cdre) George Arko-Dadzie, delivering his opening remarks for the commencement of the course, urged the cadre to discuss some of the hurdles to peace and development West Africa faces, and to explore variety of means to meet the increasing number of inter-connected and transnational challenges.
He stated that HAWA CC is building capacity and creating awareness, and thus contributing to several strategic objectives of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Humanitarian Policy and Action Plan, the ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction Gender Strategy and Action Plan 2020-2030, the European Union Action Plan On Women, Peace and Security, and is a key goal of the KAIPTC Strategic Plan 2019-2023.
A/Cdre Arko-Dadzie said the contents of HAWA CC, which has been reviewed recently, ranges from Roots Causes of Disasters, to the Protection of Civilians and Human Rights Standards, Guidelines for the Use of Armed Escort, Negotiation of Humanitarian Access, Cultural Awareness, as well as Gender and Diversity Concerns in Humanitarian Action.
A team of international facilitators and practitioners, will share experiences of best practices, mechanisms for coordinating measures, mutual understanding between civilian, police and military actors, throughout their joint efforts in providing humanitarian assistance in highly challenging situations, and lessons learned in the field, the Deputy Commandant stated.
He concluded that KAIPTC and its partners, by reviewing HAWA CC and re-introducing it, are meeting the training needs in support of effective and well-coordinated humanitarian assistance in the ECOWAS region, and would help foster human capacities, institutional interaction and civil-military cooperation.
The Austria representative from its Federal Ministry of Defence and Sports – Brigadier General (Brig Gen) Professor (Prof) Doctor (Dr) Alois Hirschmugl, providing the history of HAWA CC, said it started after a Command Post Exercise in November 2011, to evaluate aspects of the main component of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF).
General Hirschmugl continued that a joint project was developed in 2012 by the Austrian Development Agency, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence and the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) within the framework of a whole-of-government approach integrated in the “Austrian 3C initiative” – ‘coordinated, coherent and complementary’ strategy.
In September 2013, the development of this course started with the support of KAIPTC, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROWCA), the European Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).
Others included ECOWAS, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ghana, the National Disaster Management Organization Ghana (NADMO), the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), among others.
The pilot HAWA course was conducted in April 2015, and since October 2015, it has been provided as a HAWA Core Course in English and French, with simultaneous translation, and a conscious balance in geographical, ethnic, gender and professional distribution, and that by March 2021, 247 participants have been trained in a HAWA CC Training of Trainers (ToT).
The Professor opined that with the additional ToT courses and several mentoring missions taking place in various ECOWAS countries, a sustainable solution for preparation for potential disasters in the ECOWAS region has been found – a solution which aims to support the Austrian 3C Initiative strategy that is usable by state institutions and non-governmental actors, and applicable in security and development.
Covid-19, widespread food insecurity, recurrent disasters, climate change and socio-political instability seems to have jeopardized past achievements, concerning ending extreme poverty in ECOWAS.
The effects and humanitarian consequences of natural hazards and human-caused disasters in the ECOWAS region are diverse, including large population movements, destruction of key socioeconomic infrastructure, epidemics, exacerbated food insecurity and the weakening of coping capacities of states and communities that are already fragile.
ECOWAS has setup institutions and introduced procedures and processes to overcome these challenges by crafting its Humanitarian Policy and Action Plan 2012 – 2017, the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Plan of Action 2015-2030 and its DRR Gender Strategy and Action Plan (ECOWAS DRR GSAP) 2020.
When a disaster strikes, local professionals are usually the first responders on scene, and they need to be particularly well coordinated – the HAWA CC for West Africa seeks to increase the knowledge and skills of its participants, providing comprehensive approaches to planning, coordination and implementation in the field of humanitarian assistance and enabling responders to be well prepared.
By Kofi Ampeah-Woode