Monrovia, Liberia (PANA) - The induction training for pioneer ECOWAS Volunteers, to be deployed in Liberia, kicked off in the capital, Monrovia, on Monday with the nation's Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs and Planning, Mr. Christopher Wallace, expressing immense gratitude to ECOWAS for assisting the country to end a civil war and accompanying it in capacity building to promote national development.
“ECOWAS came to our aid during the war and is now following Liberia on a new trajectory for national reconstruction, peace building, reconciliation and national development,” Mr. Wallace said while opening the ceremony on behalf of the Minister of Finance, Mr. Amara Konneh, which has responsibility for ECOWAS Affairs in Liberia.
In a press release, issued by the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Wallace was quoted as lauding the fact that the ECOWAS volunteers serving in Liberia were between the ages of 18 and 35 years, noting that this section of the population was the most vulnerable during the country’s civil war.
Mr. Wallace welcomed the 21 volunteers, drawn from other ECOWAS Member States, and assured them that the Liberian Government would play its part to ensure that they enjoyed their stay in the country.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. John Linga, Liberia’s Assistant Minister of Administration in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, who represented the Minister of Health, noted that national reconciliation “is not an event but a process.”
He therefore urged partners to support the ECOWAS initiative to ensure that the volunteers were remunerated adequately.
In his remarks on behalf of ECOWAS, the Chief Registrar of the Community Court of Justice, Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh, explained that like any new initiative, the Volunteers Programme could face some teething challenges, adding, however, that these could be overcome through determination and strong commitment of all stakeholders.
He congratulated the volunteers and partners supporting the programme, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Union, the UN Volunteer programme, UNESCO and the UNHCR.
In his address to the ceremony, the UNDP Resident Representative in Liberia, Mr. Moutapha Soumare, commended ECOWAS “for the vision and resolve to create such a wonderful programme geared towards promoting peace and development in the region.”
Mr. Soumare, represented by his deputy, Mr. Fernando Edjang, expressed the hope that while a host country stands to gain from the skills of the volunteers, the volunteers themselves going into different parts of the region would learn different cultures and the general idea behind the ECOWAS project.
The ECOWAS Volunteers in Liberia included specialists in education and curriculum development, as well as specialists in various health sectors, environmental health workers, and teachers in various fields.
The initiative complements existing programmes for peace building and national volunteer programmes, with the purpose of addressing the structural causes of vulnerability, instability or outbreaks of violence in the region.
Other key roles of the ECOWAS volunteers include promoting a culture of peace and gender equality in their host communities, establishing and supporting partnerships between communities, linking up communities with technical and financial support services and networking and collaborating with development partners.
The Volunteers Programme is designed to cover the 15-Member States in the long-term.
Altogether, some 160 volunteers will be posted during the pilot phase in four countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
-0- PANA PR/VAO 7May2012