18.12.2013 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Third Regional Forum of Ministers for Social Development of the ECOWAS in Ghana

© World Bank - Nigeria

Entirely placed under the heading “Societal Vulnerability - The Social Inclusion Challenges of Environmental Change”, the third Forum of Ministers for Social Development of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) took place in Accra, Ghana, on 16 and 17 December 2013.

Organized by the Government of Ghana and UNESCO, within the framework of its Programme on Management of Social Transformations (MOST), this ministerial forum gathered the representatives of the 15 ECOWAS’ Member States, and many social scientists and representatives of regional research institutions, such as the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

As a platform enabling the exchange of experiences and successful practices in national policies, this event thus offered opportunities for co-production of knowledge through presentations by, and discussions among all policy-makers and stakeholders involved on regional social policy strategies.

It allowed, inter alia, to share with all participants the results of an important project developed by UNESCO in two countries of the region: Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. In these countries, two studies carried out on the impact of global environmental change on the rights of migrants led to a series of policy recommendations which were endorsed by the participating decision-makers.

With a thematic focus on “The Social Inclusion Challenges of Environmental Change”, this regional forum contributed to respond to and to implement the two thematic priorities of UNESCO's MOST Programme (“social transformations arising from global environmental change’’ and “social inclusion”).

The notion of “societal vulnerability” which was particularly discussed corresponds precisely to the intersection between these two priorities.

By relating processes of environmental change in West African societies - including climate change, biodiversity loss and freshwater scarcity - to the patterns of social inclusion and exclusion that they reflect and transform, this third Forum also contributed to the knowledge-base for socially inclusive environmental adaptation policies, which constitute a recognized development priority for the ECOWAS Member States.

In particular, the issue of environmentally driven societal vulnerability is relevant to the realization of the Social Policy Framework for Africa, adopted at the first session of the African Union Conference of Ministers in Charge of Social Development (2008).

Environmentally driven societal vulnerability further reflects decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio de Janeiro, June 2012).

The ministers adopted a Ministerial Declaration with policy recommendations to respond to societal responsibility supported by research.

Initiated by UNESCO, the first Forum of Ministers for Social Development of the ECOWAS was held, in Bamako, Mali, on 25 and 26 January 2006.

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