In continuation of the series of its ‘Abuja Debates’, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) started the year 2015 addressing the topic of “Displacement & Human Security in West Africa”. The debate, which held on the 20th of January, brought together a panel of experts from the field with a representative from the Nigeria National Emergency Management (NEMA), M. Fagbemi Kayode, a civil society representative, Ms Barabara Maigari (CLEEN Foundation) and officials from the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Cyriaque Agnekethom, Director Regional Security and Mr Olatunde Olayemi (Humanitarian and Social Affairs Directorate).
In his opening remarks, Mr Felix Henkel laid the ground for debate by posing some open questions regarding the human security of both migrants and the hosting communities as well as the normative framework governing migration and how that relates to the actual situation on the ground. Considering the role of local civil society actors in coping with large numbers of displaced persons, he drew attention to possible long-term effects of forced migration, resettlement and return. He ended by challenging the panelists with the delicate questions whether displaced people posed a security risk and how it could be ensured that displaced citizens were able to vote in the five (5) major elections coming up this year in West Africa.
The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Nigeria, HE Michael ZENNER provided some perspectives vis-a-vis international responses to the challenging phenomenon of displacement in West- Africa by presenting the Franco-German joint support to assisting Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Nigeria.
The debate among panelists and the ensuing discussion with the audience highlighted the important role of national and local agencies in assisting and providing protection to displaced persons making use of theirclose connection on the ground.MrKayode (NEMA) insisted in the necessity of collaboration among agencies instead of quarrelling over numbers. The ECOWAS officials, after presentingthe institution’s humanitarian policy and plan of action and ongoing supports to member states experiencing displacement, vividly encouraged inter-state co-operation and experience sharing. All panelists agreed that to provide freedom from fear and freedom from need, West African governments must seek to prevent displacement in the first place by delivering public goods everywhere and by developing policies that benefit the people.