SWAC support to strengthening the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA)
Thirty years after its creation, the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) is unanimously recognised as the region’s reference platform for dialogue on food and nutrition security under the political leadership of ECOWAS and UEMOA. Many members are represented at the decision-making level, and the number of participants is constantly growing.
Behind the scenes, the SWAC Secretariat is playing a key role by facilitating informal dialogue and consensus-building among Network members. Together with the CILSS Executive Secretary, it organises the two RPCA statutory meetings, and ensures the smooth running of the Network. It works towards increasing the Network's political impact on regional decision-making bodies and increasing its international visibility through targeted communications products (RPCA documentary film, video clips, RPCA website and other communication tools).
The SWAC Secretariat also facilitates access to international fora and offers opportunities for West African food security stakeholders to present their viewpoints and concerns to national and international decision-makers of OECD member countries.
Since the Network's creation in 1984, the SWAC Secretariat has played a key role in ensuring the smooth running of the Network. The RPCA's founding fathers intended to create a “light”, non-institutional and informal network to facilitate consensus-building among the various food security stakeholders active in the region. Without a permament Secretariat, the Network's running solely depends on the technical support provided by the SWAC Secretariat and the CILSS Executive Secretariat.
Over time, the SWAC Secretariat was able to win the buy-in of West Africa's regional organisations which are now formally assuming the political leadership of the Network. It has also played a bridging role between Sahelian and West African leaders and technical and financial partners. Initially conceived as a tool to improve aid effectiveness in the Sahel, the Network has constantly been evolving to address today's food security challenges which are much more complex than in the past. It also hosts an ever-larger number of initiatives and programmes (e.g. AGIR, Regional Food Security Reserve, etc.), a sign of its success.
“For nearly three decades, this Network has been at work in West Africa, progressively building consensual policies to ensure food and nutrition security for millions of people. [...] The RPCA is evolving, pushing forward innovative ideas and improving food crisis prevention and management tools. If the Network still exists today and continues to grow in number and strength, it is because above all it is built on the political legitimacy of Sahelian and West African regional institutions with a mandate from the governments of the region. It nourishes and is nourished by this political legitimacy around which it solidifies and strengthens regional governance.”
François-Xavier de Donnea, SWAC President
- Food Aid Charter (1990): adopted by Heads of State of CILSS member countries and contributing members of the Club du Sahel/OECD, the Charter is a code of conduct which has provided significant impacts with regard to food crises prevention and management in the Sahel. The Charter defines the basic principles that food aid donors and national authorities of Sahelian States agree to respect in order to circumvent negative effects of this aid.
- The PREGEC cycle: in the early 2000s, the Sahel region did not have a region-wide assessment of its agricultural campaign. Within the framework of the Network, food security actors progressively developed a cycle of regular consultations which form today an integral part of the "Regional System for the Prevention and Management of Food Crises" (PREGEC). Within the PREGEC cycle, CILSS/Agrhymet and other food security experts collect information in member countries, harmonise information at the regional level and build consensus among the various food security actors (CILSS, FAO, FEWS NET, UNOCHA, WFP). The PREGEC cycle is comprised of four technical meetings plus two RPCA meetings.
- The Charter for Food Crisis Prevention and Management (PREGEC Charter, 2011): an inclusive consultation process, covers the fifteen ECOWAS member countries as well as Chad and Mauritania was conducted within the framework of the Network. This code of good conduct addresses the root causes of food crises. It calls on signatories to strengthen information systems and dialogue platforms, and to ensure the coherence of interventions, thereby improving the effectiveness of collective action. The Charter is subject to internal and external assessments conducted within the framework of the Network (see current work).
- The Cadre harmonisé (Harmonised Framework - HF) is a tool that has grown from the Charter and is used for evaluating the food and nutrition situation as well as for formulating assessments and making consensual projections. Drawing on the analysis, the CILSS/Agrhymet prepares a consensual map on the food security vulnerability.
- The Regional Food Security Reserve is supported by the Network. After encouraging the G20 to lend policy support to West Africa’s goal of establishing a Regional Food Security Reserve, the SWAC Secretariat assisted with the project formulation process, contributing to the task force and the feasibility study.
- The Global Alliance for Resilience: the Alliance was launched in December 2012 within the platform of the Network. The SWAC platform, via the RPCA, provides the common space for dialogue, lobbying and advocacy for the Alliance at the international level. The SWAC Secretariat organises the bi-annual Senior Experts Group meetings (SEG-AGIR).
- Impact on decision-making: Since 2010, the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions have co-chaired the Network meetings, turning the RPCA into a key dialogue forum for assisting decision-makers. West African ministerial meetings rely on the Network’s recommendations to design policy and financial response decisions to located food crisis situations. Recognising the importance that the UN attaches to the PREGEC cycle and the RPCA in general, the UN recently revised its humanitarian programme cycle to await the full results and analysis of the harmonised framework.
Within the 2015-16 Programme of Work, the SWAC Secretariat will continue to support the strengthening of the Network. In particular, the SWAC Secretariat focuses its efforts on the following areas of work:
- Facilitating dialogue and the co-ordination of the food and nutrition security situation and outlook via two annual Network meetings (April and December). The SWAC Secretariat will ensure that the roles and contributions of agricultural producers' organisations and civil society are bolstered.
- Connecting the Network with the decision-making centres of regional organisations, governments, trade and civil society organisations, technical and financial partners: analytical study including recommendations: holding discussions.
- Performing external evaluations of the Charter: a high-level West Africa/international community meeting (including DAC/OECD Members and non-Members) will be held in conjunction with the first external evaluation of the Charter for Food Crisis Prevention and Management. In 2016, a second external evaluation will be conducted. In addition, the following actions will be performed:
- Thematic studies to boost the impact of the Charter on a regional level. These will include, for example, a study on mechanisms for questioning all stakeholders regarding the Charter’s application, a study assessing and making proposals to streamline frameworks and mechanisms for consultation and dialogue about food security on the regional level, studies on the cost effectiveness of initiatives.
- Technical support will be provided to civil society and agricultural producers' organisations in order to facilitate the creation of independent assessment mechanisms to foster the accountability of states, regional organisations and technical and financial partners.
- Facilitating the establishment of a permanent system for monitoring and evaluation, and capitalising on the responses to food and nutrition crises to strengthen the effectiveness of crisis prevention and management operations and policies. This will help bolster the scope of the RPCA from a focus on humanitarian and crisis relief to a more comprehensive one.
- Supporting the work of the Regional Food Reserve Task Force.
- Developing communication tools and activities for the Network to further raise its visibility in the Sahelian and West African region and in international settings. For example, the SWAC Secretariat is currently preparing a series of information clips to present key Network tools such as the PREGEC cycle, the Charter and the Regional Food Security Reserve. It has also published a film on the RPCA.
- Jean Sibiri Zoundi, Principal Administrator, SWAC Secretariat