The ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS) is a foundational document that provides a comprehensive reference framework for actions at national and regional levels. It identifies the major challenges to ECOWAS Maritime Domain (EMD) and offers a set of comprehensive priority actions that should be undertaken at the national and regional level. Five strategic objectives are listed in the document, as pillars of the EIMS for the achievement of the vision, which is a prosperous, safe and peaceful EMD for all its peoples that will allow environmentally sustainable development and wealth creation based on efficient management and good governance.
The Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) is a multi-component project of 28 million euros project of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) funded by the European Union. In support of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS) it comprises several interlocking components dealing respectively with: maritime surveillance, maritime law enforcement, maritime governance and the closer integration of different actors, including civil society and the private commercial sector. They are designed to improve maritime security in region.
Of particular relevance to the SWAIMS project are EIMS objectives one, Strengthen Maritime Governance and two, A Safe and Secure Maritime Domain. Since inception, the SWAIMS project activities have been geared towards supporting the actions detailed in the strategic framework. Five Actions are listed under Strategic Objective 1 that shaped the formulation of the SWAIMS project document and identified the areas of intervention. Governance is defined as encompassing all legal and policy requirements, and as involving a Member States as well as stakeholders at regional, continental and international level.
Given budgetary and capacity constraints the project had to concentrate resources on priority areas. In support of Strategic Objective 2 the project was more encompassing, though some actions were more directly targeted than others. SWAIMS responded to a sense of urgency in the strategy document by supporting efforts to strengthen capacities of national and regional institutions and security agencies.
In this process SWAIMS has been following the guidance laid out in the EIMS Strategic Priority Actions Plan that put in place comprising twenty distinct but interconnected actions, each of which pertains to one of the respective objectives. Of relevance to SWAIMS are:
o S/N 1 Development, adoption and implementation of national maritime strategies.
o S/N 4 Assessment of the maritime legal framework in each ECOWAS Member State.
o S/N 7 Domestication and enforcement of relevant international agreements related to the maritime domain.
o S/N 8 Capacity building including basic and specialized trainings for stakeholders dealing with maritime issues in general and maritime security / safety in particular.
o S/N 9 Acquiring of naval assets for maritime surveillance units.
Activities have carried over in these and in other areas, even though the original plan covered the period 2016 – 2020. There is now an urgent need for reviewing the achievements under the different objectives, to draw out lessons learned and to map out the way to the future. Since the Action Plan and the underlying strategy document was the framework on which the SWAIMS project was designed it is appropriate for the experience of the project to be reviewed and used to feed into the formulation of a plan for the next project cycle.