Special humanitarian assistance organ proposed

Military and civilian officials from the 16 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
have called for the creation of a special organ within ECOWAS to
coordinate responses to emergencies in the region.

The call capped a seminar on the `Coordinated Use of International Military and Civil Defence Assets in Emergency Management', held on 2-7 May in Yamassoukro, Cote d'Ivoire.

The new organ would take on a "full spectrum of disaster management and humanitarian response activities in the sub-region, including disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation," according to the seminar's final statement, received on Monday by IRIN.

The delegates also recommended the establishment of a working group to oversee its creation.

The seminar, organised by the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ECOWAS and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), aimed to "enhance regional cooperation in humanitarian relief, with emphasis on the peaceful use of military resources".

It was also attended by observers from non-ECOWAS countries such as Cameroon, France, Gabon, Germany and the US, and international bodies including the UN, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Its recommendations were handed over on Friday to an ECOWAS representative for submission to its Council of Ministers, a delegate told IRIN.