The ECCAS Border Programme: promoting border governance and regional cooperation
Title: Support to the ECCAS Border Programme (APF-CEEAC)
Commissioned by: European Union (EU) and German Federal Foreign Office
Country: Africa supraregional
Lead executing agency: Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), National border commissions, National ministries responsible for border issues
Overall term: 2020 to 2022
Border regions in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly frequently affected by conflicts. In many cases, this is because the boundary lines are not clearly legally specified (delimitation) or the marking with boundary stones (demarcation) is insufficient for today’s requirements. In 1964, the member states of the Organisation of African Unity decided to keep the borders the way they were at the time the nations gained independence. However, even now there are still uncertainties regarding the actual boundary lines. The African heads of state and government recognised the latent conflict potential and, at a meeting in 2002, agreed to proactively clarify the unclear border demarcations on the basis of mutual understanding with the aim of preventing conflicts.
To date around 65 per cent of the borders of the eleven member states of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are not sufficiently defined. This results in significant risks for the local populations in border regions. Legal vacuums can arise in territorial ‘grey zones’ where criminal organisations are active. Conflicts over natural resources in border regions and over the right to use traditional land pose additional risks to the security of border populations.
Arbitrarily drawn borders often separate ethnic communities and families. These present many challenges in everyday life and lead to unnoticed crossing of borders, for purposes such as trade, shared use of infrastructure or family visits. In combination with the frequent corruption and arbitrary actions of border authorities, this means significant risks to human rights and freedom of movement, particularly for disadvantaged population groups.
The already weak state structures in the region are hardly in a position to ensure safety and security. Furthermore, cross-border cooperation is often weak, informal or shaped by mistrust.
To prevent conflicts erupting from these circumstances and to strengthen security in the region, the ECCAS Border Programme was adopted in 2009. The European Union has been supporting its implementation since 2013.
Thanks to improved regional and national border governance, there is more peace, security, conflict prevention and economic cooperation in the Central African region.
The project is part of a European Union programme to strengthen the ability of ECCAS to act in the peace and security sector (PARCIC). It contributes to the programme’s objective of improving stability and democratic governance in Central Africa by reducing the potential for conflict relating to border administration issues.
The African Union Border Programme (AUBP) forms the conceptual framework for this.
The GIZ project operates in three fields of action:
1. Improving the General Secretariat’s ability to act: The project aims to empower ECCAS to assume responsibility for regional coordination and setting standards. This includes coordinating the activities of the border programme as well as monitoring and communicating these activities.
2. Strengthening states and improving border governance: The project supports the states with developing and implementing strategies, for example for cross-border cooperation, movement of goods and nomadic pasture farming. A particular emphasis is placed on the aspects of gender, human rights, conflict sensitivity and integration of civil society. The project also supports training measures for national key actors on the topic of border governance.
3. Delimitation, demarcation and cooperation at pilot borders: The project supports the national border commissions with improving the legal definition of selected border sections and making them visible on the ground using boundary stones. Local cooperation plans support the activities.
The project links regional border governance with local projects for cross-border cooperation. Shared planning processes and community-based mechanisms for conflict resolution promote regional integration as well as sustainable solutions in areas such as nomadic pasture farming, trade, culture and security.