This article attempts to understand the role of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the regulation of regional security in West Africa. In doing this, it takes a critical look at the internal dynamics of West Africa and how they shape the organization, as well as at ECOWAS' responses to a highly volatile and unpredictable region. It also examines the responses of ECOWAS to some of the security challenges it has faced and attempts to determine to what extent the organization has been able to act as a regional regulator of security. The article uses two critical case studies; the first, Liberia, represents the nature of responses in the immediate post-Cold War era, and the second, Côte d'Ivoire, represents the evolution of ECOWAS' security thinking and architecture in the contemporary period. This approach to analyzing ECOWAS' role in subregional security allows us to appropriately map not just the peculiar international conditions that shape the organization, but also the way its institutions have responded to this dynamic. In concluding, the article points to institutional and legal advancements like the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) and the growing emphasis on democratization and responsible governance as evidence of ECOWAS policymakers having learned some lessons from years of tortuous conflict management. However, it also points to the need to broaden the space for civil society participation to include social movements outside traditional expert networks and to further deepen the growing commitment to development as a tool of conflict management.
- West Africa