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The Continental Early Warning System
The premise of conflict prevention is that conflict can be averted through the building of trust between role players, coalition formation and negotiated settlements. Conflict prevention mechanisms must be in place, supported by early warning and risk assessment systems. Perhaps the most important integrated project for creating a peaceful and secure environment for African development is the establishment of a CEWS of the AU. According to the Protocol of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), timely information collected through a CEWS will be used by the Peace and Security Council on potential conflicts and threats to peace and security in Africa. The CEWS will be linked to regional situation rooms. Decisions on the best course of action will be based on this intelligence, and should preventive diplomacy fail, peacekeepers may be deployed to prevent violence. At present, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) (the most developed system), have plans in place for sub-regional early warning systems, in different stages of development. The CEWS is specifically mandated to collaborate with the United Nations, its agencies, other relevant international organisations, research centres, academic institutions and NGOs. Although the Protocol requires that meetings of the PSC be to be closed, the PSC may consult with civil society organisations in relating to conflict situations. A 'Draft Roadmap' is developed to establish the CEWS. The analytical and mediating capacity of the CEWS is increasing to culminate with the establishment of the Panel of the Wise. (AU 2005).
During an AU workshop on the CEWS in 2003, some concerns were expressed. Because the analytical dichotomy between intra-state and inter-state conflict is not clear in Africa, early warning tends to focus on intra-state conflicts. Furthermore, the concern was expressed that time constraints associated with early warning have policy implications, delimit the extent of knowledge on conflict and determine prospects of whether intervention will be successful or not. Therefore, an early warning mechanism must focus on both long-term aspects of conflicts and their prevention. Moreover, the importance of group thinking was identified. The homogeneity of a group can drive the use of the information, especially the interpretation of and action on the information. (AU 2003).
According to Schneider (2004) the capacity to prevent forms the core of early warning. Governments and intergovernmental organisations need all the help they can get. As budgets tend to shrink, there seems to be less capacity than ever to track and monitor fragile situations and conflicts in the making. As a result, there is a larger role to be played by non-governmental role players including the media and NGOs. NGOs can produce ground-level information and analysis and communicate instantly through laptops, satellite linkages and the internet. That information can be used to build a prevention strategy.
Anderini and Nyheim (1998) argue that there is a co-ordination problem between information gatherers, analysts, decision-makers, and field workers. Among organisations, there is still some reluctance to share information or act on the information gathered by others. Organisations cannot automatically trust every source, so unless the information comes from their own workers, or from reliable sources, little action will be taken. Priorities also differ. While one is warning about an impending crisis in one region, another organisation is active in a different area, and will not or cannot respond immediately to the warning. Even when there is a response, there may be conflicts of interest and little co-operation. Decision-makers and information analysts aim to maintain objectivity and may not know what the most appropriate responses are. Their counterparts in the region and the local population are best placed to identify the necessary responses but their perspective may not be entirely objective or impartial. Consequently, the action taken is often inadequate, of no benefit, or in the worst cases, actually serves to heighten a crisis.
During a meeting of governmental Experts on Early Warning and Conflict Prevention (2006) it was found that a number of African Community Service Organisations (CSOs) are active in the areas of analysis, research, publication and advocacy, with a huge potential to contribute in the conceptualization and designing of a new security architecture for the continent. If their analyses of conflicts derive from indigenous sources, it would be valuable tools for in-depth analysis of conflicts and the development of appropriate response mechanisms. CSOs could also alert the regional body of conflicts, the factors that encourage escalation and the trigger mechanisms that cause violence. Active collaboration with such CSOs would also assist in profiling and database management. A number of indigenous 'think-tanks' have actually made positive and practical contributions to policy development at both the regional and sub-regional levels, through active collaboration with the AU (and OAU before it) and other sub-regional bodies. Currently several African CSOs are building considerable capacity in this area. Such 'think- tanks' can be mobilized to conduct research for, and on behalf of, the AU in current and potential conflict zones. Importantly also, they can help to disseminate the work of the AU among key constituencies through their publications and other outreach activities.
An evaluation of the CEWS confirmed that global and regional interaction, and even networking with civil society and non-governmental entities is important to enable data gathering, including data from IKS, and a constant flow of information that can be shared in a spirit of willing collaboration and inputs from all role-players. Furthermore, the variable of time constraints is identified in the processing of data and information and the creation of new knowledge. To produce holistic knowledge takes time, and flexible procedure has to be implemented to allow for early dissemination of knowledge that prevents conflict or that can initiate a specific conflict resolution or management action. However, the reluctance to share and the absence of objectivity among analysts are variables to be managed by managers, who are made responsible for facilitating synergy and convergence. Again, the roles of visionary leaders, who must apply their 'higher minds' to ensure that insights from all stakeholders, including indigenous knowledge, are merged and used in time to prevent conflict, are confirmed. Leaders and 'wise people' must ensure that a horizontal equilibrium is maintained during interaction, preventing that the views of one region or institution dominates the whole, while preventing central control, aspects that would prevent early warning and effective action to resolve conflict.
This work is (c)opyright to Dr Dries Velthuizen African Wisdom site and is used with permission.
Submitted by DriesVelt on 29 June 2009 - 9:23am. categories [ ]