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Third International Workshop: “Germany’s West Africa Policy: Taking (West) Africa seriously!”, Berlin, Germany, October 17th, 2020

Picture1A third international workshop on “Germany’s West Africa Policy: Taking (West) Africa seriously!”, was held on October 17th, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. In contrast to the first workshop in Berlin (2018), which particularly dealt with European and German perspectives on the security situation in West Africa and the second workshop in Dakar, Senegal (February 2020), which placed special emphasis on West African perspectives and challenges with regard to security, human, and economic conflicts, this one day workshop brought both results together and payed attention to West African ownership and alternative or traditional forms of governance. 

The first session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Michael Staack (HSU) and strongly influenced by what has been referred to in international media as the fourth coup in Mali (August 18th, 2020) since it gained independence from France in 1960. In the first speeches of the day, Philipp Goldberg (Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation / Peace and Security Centre of Competence Sub-Saharan Africa, Dakar) and Prof. Dr. Djénéba Traoré (West Africa Institute (WAI), Praia/Cabo Verde – since March 2020 stucked in Bamako), made clear that the current situation in Mali must be placed in the bigger picture of the wider Sahel region. Despite a strong international presence in the region, the security situation has deteriorated especially due to extremist’s killings in recent years. International engagement would still be highly recommended, but at the same time needs to be refocused. Therefore, it is important to refrain from the securitization of the Sahel. Rather peacebuilding needs stronger cooperation with civil society, local communities and secure access to basic public services (i.a education, health services). 

In the second session, chaired by Elisabeth Kaneza (University of Potsdam), Prof. Dr. Heinz-Gerhard Justenhoven (ITHF) stressed that attempts of liberal statebuilding by international actors since the 1990s have not met the required standards or completely failed. Ronald Meyer (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ) further highlighted that international actors cannot simply transfer things – the western value model or institutions (i.a. law, administration). However, the BMZ would not support certain structures if basic human rights are violated, for example concerning the rights of women. While working together with local actors such as traditional authorities is highly recommended in his opinion, different interests need to be taken into account. Subsequently, Benjamin Akoutou (Don Bosco Mission, Bonn) touched upon traditional social dialogue (i.a. under the 'palaver tree') and conflict resolution mechanisms in West African societies (i.a. concerning the role of elders). From his perspective, one main concern is the compatibility of the state with local traditions, including the strengthening of parallelism between formal and alternative forms of governance.Picture1 copy 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The final report of the international workshop is available here

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