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The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) was founded on 12 th December 2003 in Abuja, Nigeria. One of the key issues within WACSOF’s institutional management process over the years since its founding has been the question of how to effectively engagement with its stakeholders. These naturally leads to several other questions including: Who are the stakeholders? How will their participation in the institution’s processes and activities be managed? How will the membership process be organized and systematized? Hence, in the absence of any systematic membership strategy adopted and promoted by the institution at founding, there was a general informal process of getting involved in WACSOF, which was built around knowing the existence of WACSOF and being able to convince the WACSOF Secretariat to engage one’s organization. This seemed to mean that there was a general consensus that any civil society entity in West Africa was automatically a member of WACSOF. Also, there seemed to be an absence of consideration about how individual experts, activists and enthusiasts in various thematic areas, as key stakeholders of the institution, and how Partners, both technical and financial, can be much more involved in shaping the affairs of the organization. While that reality has not been a source of controversy or institutional inefficiency at any point in the organization’s history, it has nonetheless been a factor that contributes to the institution’s informal engagement patterns with civil society organizations.

As a one-of-a-kind institution in West Africa, WACSOF at creation was meant to be a pivotal actor in West Africa’s regional integration and development process, a position from which it was to specifically serve as a receptacle for civil society agency. In that regard, WACSOF was meant to serve as a strategic partner to ECOWAS on civil society mobilization and engagement. Hence, in terms of its purposes, WACSOF is primarily meant to serve as a mechanism to facilitate the aggregation of voice and agency among civil society region-wide, as well as an actor with the legitimate mandate to represent and promote civil society interest and aspirations in the ECOWAS process. WACSOF has however had challenges over the years in organizing and effectively engaging the civil society across the region as a result of lack of a coherent organizing principle for civil society. In this regard, the WACSOF stakeholder engagement idea is built upon the need to facilitate effective and inclusive participation by its stakeholders in West Africa’s regional integration and development process, while also instituting sustained dialogue with strategic partners in an innovative way. The Standardization and formalization of the institution’s relationships with its stakeholders is one key element in the organization’s institution-building and strengthening process. That is because it contributes to deepening the commitment of stakeholders towards the organization. This strategy document therefore outlines how the organization’s relationships with its stakeholders is to be managed. As part of a drive towards institutional strengthening, this stakeholder engagement strategy document outlines the different parameters through which the relationship between WACSOF and its various categories of stakeholder will be better organized, sustained and updated over time. It clearly defines the terms of participation in WACSOF by both individual subject-matter experts and Civil society organizations (CSOs) across west Africa as well as Partners interested in supporting civil society advocacy on regional integration and development in the region. It outlines the procedures for participation of different categories of stakeholders of the organization in terms of obligations, responsibilities, rights and benefits, etc.


A stakeholder of WACSOF is a person, group or organization with a vested interest, or stake, in the institutional management and decision-making of WACSOF as an institution as well as involvement in the planning and implementation of its activities or project. Stakeholders may include entities that may be beneficiaries of the organization’s activities, or others who may contribute technical and financial resources towards the realization of the organization’s objectives. All stakeholders of the organization are required to have some form of official affiliation to the organization including the following:
1.  Member
2. Affiliate
3. Partner
Each of these categories is discussed below

1. Member
A member of WACSOF is civil society entity that subscribes to the vision, mission and objectives of WACSOF, and wishes to participate continuously in its activities. Membership to WACSOF is Institutionally based, open to all categories of civil society organizations interested in contributing to West Africa’s regional integration and development, or are working on specific thematic areas or related to the processes of regional integration and development as driven by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Organizations desiring membership of WACSOF are required to complete a membership form at no cost.

Benefits of Membership
Membership to WACSOF is intended to be a unique experience, which offers Members the following concrete benefits:
1. Networking and collaboration: The Forum provides a platform for its members to collaborate with other CSOs nationally and regionally in promoting regional integration and development in West Africa. Through this process, members can  identify common grounds for collaboration and opportunities for working together. WACSOF will deliberately promote the emergence of partnerships and collaboration opportunities among its members and also between its members and ECOWAS or its member states in addressing regional integration and development challenges in West Africa. Specifically, members shall be invited to participate in regional Thematic Working Groups that correspond to their areas of interest and expertise, where they will be able to interact with other similarly interested members as well as participate in setting the priorities and agenda of the forum with respect to such areas of engagement.

2. Access to capacity building information, resources and programs: WACSOF will constantly engage its members through the sharing of relevant information to help build their capacity and increase their access to relevant information and expert knowledge that underlie civil society engagement in the region. This will enable them deepen the quality of their engagement around regional integration and development issues in West Africa. Members
will also have access to subsidized capacity development and training programmes championed by WACSOF or its partners to enhance their capacity in the delivery of the goals for civil society engagement in regional integration.

3. Linkages with appropriate partners and programs: As part of its outreach strategies, the Forum will, where applicable, facilitate linkages and engagement between its members and its various technical and financial partners across board, especially in the process ofimplementing WACSOF’s regional programmes of WACSOF supported through the efforts of partners and where partners may require the involvement of civil society in their activities
across the region.
4. Recommendation for Participation in activities: As Members of the WACSOF, organizations will periodically obtain opportunities to participate in different programs and activities or WACSOF’s partners with bearing on civil society engagement in West Africa. Such opportunities may include ECOWAS processes and programs, where formal request are being made for the recommendation of civil society organizations to be engaged. This will further entrench their role as constructive partners in West Africa’s regional integration Process.

5. Visibility and popularization of the Member’s work: As a member of the Forum, your work will be showcased on different platforms and information resources of the forum. This includes the WACSOF website, WACSOF Newsletter, the West Africa Watch (published bi-monthly) and the WACSOF Annual Report.  Members contact details are also made available on request to Donors, government offices and other CSOs looking for organizations to partner/collaborate with on specific activities or projects.

6. Taking up Leadership positions in WACSOF: Members may take up several opportunities to lead specific processes and organs of WACSOF including the Executive Committee, the Thematic Groups, the national Platforms and special delegations and committees constituted by the organization to oversee the realization of specific tasks by the WACSO FSecretariat. The roles include; coordinating the forum’s engagement at the national and regional levels or spearheading the forum’s engagement around thematic issues within West Africa’s regional integration and development processes.

7. Certification: A membership Acknowledgement Certificate, which will be given to the Member by the forum, will serve as an automatic endorsement of the organization, and can be shared with partners as a mark of recognition by the Forum. A Member, requesting amembership certificate, will receive such after their application has been approved by the WACSOF Executive Committee.

Membership Types and Categories
Membership to the forum can be classified into two categories (Full Membership and Associate Membership), each explained below:

1. Full Membership: A full Member is a member fully committed to the WACSOF’s vision, mission and objectives, and available to take up all responsibilities assigned to it by the forum as can be demonstrated through enthusiastic participation in its activities. Full members can participate in all the range of activities organized by the coalition and its partners, where they are interested. Full membership is available to all legally registered institutions who subscribe to the forum’s vision.

2. Associate Membership: Associate membership is a status conferred on some organizations who may not fully satisfy the membership requirements as outlined on the membership requirements or may not be in a position to fully adhere to the terms of WACSOF’s membership. Associate Membership status may be conferred due to any of the following reasons, which may prevent them from effectively dispatching the responsibilities of a full member:

– Conflict of Interest: conflict of interest may arise where an institution is a, coordinating institution/ platform with similar roles as WACSOF by virtue of its role, objectives and institutional set up.
-Non-registered or Informal Institutions: these are organizations that are not legally registered in any country, but are interested in participating and contributing to civil society engagement on regional integration and development processes in West Africa.
Where the organization seeking membership of WACSOF is not registered, it may provide a letter of recommendation from one of its partners who is a duly registered member of WACSOF.

-Non-Centrality of Vision: this may arise where the nature of an organization’s vision may be seen as “non-central to the vision of WACSOF” or to such an extent that it mayconstitute a barrier to its full participation in the forum’s activities i.e. non-West African Civil Society Organizations, including INGOs whose interests and focus are by nature incongruent with, or of a wider scope than, the institution’s vision. In such a situation,there may be no need for the organization to take up full membership to the coalition, as it would be a burdensome responsibility.

-Non-vetted Membership-Applicants: Associate membership may be an intermediary status conferred on any applicants whose application materials has been submitted but has not yet been vetted. This is in order to provide such organizations with a window for them to participate in WACSOF’s activities while their application is pending.

Note: Associate Members are not eligible to take up any leadership or representational position on behalf of WACSOF.

Terms and Conditions of WACSOF’s Membership

Membership to the forum is governed by a set of expectations related to rights and obligations that
flow to members. Below is a summary.
1. Privileges
– To be involved in the forum’s activities as applicable by its status of membership
– To regularly receive updates from WACSOF Secretariat leadership and management onrelevant information that will enrich the member’s work
-To timely receive relevant information about the work of the forum.

2. Obligations and Responsibilities
-To adhere to the forum’s Code of Conduct for members
-To not be part of a scheme to discredit or undermine the forum
-To contribute its resources and efforts to the success of the forum’s vision to the best of its ability, including through sharing its online resources and links
-Will participate in the forum’ activities
-To act with mutual respect and courteousness towards fellow members
-To inform the forum of any change of name, office address and/or website/ social media resources
-To implement any additional obligations and responsibilities as flows from policies of the forum’s leadership including responsibilities conferred by:

(1) strategies andprogrammes being implemented by the WACSOF Secretariat; and

(2) the decisions andresolutions of the Forum’s Executive Committee.

Membership Requirements
Any Institution desiring membership to the coalition shall:
1. Be a duly constituted civil society entity
2. Provide evidence of official registration according the legal traditions of one of the ECOWAS Member States (or state otherwise)
3. Provide pertinent and relevant organizational information as requested in specified sections of a membership form satisfactorily completed.
4. Satisfy all membership obligations as spelt out in the Terms and Conditions of WACSOF Membership, or as prescribed by the forum’s Executive Committee Council from time-to-time.

Membership is discontinued if;

1. Member notifies the secretariat in writing of their intention to withdraw.
2. Member acts against WACSOF’s Code of Conduct and any rules and/ or regulations pertaining to administrative, procedural and disciplinary matters. An independent Committee will be set-up to look into the issue and the decision of such a committee will be

How WACSOF Membership issues shall be managed;
In the process of managing WACSOF’s Membership the organization shall carry out outreach to identify and engage its stakeholders and maintain directories at both the national and regional levels as well as periodic update of contacts of the contacts of civil society. In line with that, there shall be two main categories of membership in WACSOF. That is, the national and regional.

-National Membership: The category of National Membership applies to organizations that are active at the national level only, in which case the specific scope of their involvement resolves around the specific country that forms their focus area. The national level membership management shall be carried out by the Regional Secretariat in collaboration with different national platforms.

-Regional Membership: Regional Membership is for institutions whose outlook are regional. Regional organizations that desire Membership in WACSOF (including regional civil society organizations, regional civil society networks, etc.) These organizations, by virtue of their coverage and reach would be ascribed a special relationship status with WACSOF. Beyond being Ordinary members of the platform, they will be more active in supporting WACSOF as thematic lead organizations in galvanizing different organizations
on various thematic areas.


2. Affiliate
Individuals who subscribe to the vision and mission of the forum, and would want to support its activities are welcome to subscribe to the forum as Affiliates. Individuals may not be in a position to take up full membership of the forum, hence, they shall be officially named as affiliates of the forum, where they wish to be formally identified with the forum. The WACSOF Affiliation status is open to
all subject-matter experts and specialists who are interested in contributing intellectual or technical inputs into WACSOF’s work.

Benefits of Affiliation
Affiliation is a formal status granted to an individual by the forum, which will carry the following benefits:

1. Provision of recommendation Letters: The Forum will provide recommendations to its affiliates where applicable, for participation in relevant workshops, conferences and capacity building programmes in relation to their specific areas of expertise. Where applicable, WACSOF will facilitate linkages and engagement between its affiliates and its various partners across board.

2. Access to WACSOF Communication and information resources and programs: Affiliates will be included in the forum‘s mailing lists and shall receive WACSOF’s information and communication resources, which will contain with relevant information to help deepen their understanding of issues of regional integration and development issues in West Africa.

3. Training/ Capacity Building Opportunities: Affiliates may be recommended or invited to participate in capacity development and training programmes championed by WACSOF or its partners to enhance their capacity in the delivery of the goals for civil society engagement in regional integration.

4. Participation in WACSOF’s activities: Affiliates will participate in the Forum’s programmes and activities by contributing technical perspectives and insights to its deliberations and products as well as serving the forum under various titles as best positions them to contribute effectively to the forum’s work as officially assigned by the WACSOF General Secretary. These include: volunteer, facilitator, rapporteur, discussant, panellist, paper presenter, envoy, fellow, Committee Member, advisor, etc.

5. Visibility and Popularization of the Affiliates intellectual products: the intellectual products of affiliates of the Forum will be showcased on different platforms and informationresources of the forum including their contact details. These includes the WACSOF website, blogs, social media handles, and WACSOF Newsletter, the West Africa Watch (published bi-monthly).

6. Provision of Work Space: The forum will make available offices and workspaces within its secretariat to affiliates who may wish for a space to carry out their own work, where such are not being used by staff members at the same moment.

Note: Affiliates of WACSOF may not take up leadership roles in the forum, except where they are invited to provide insights and advice in relation to their expertise, knowledge or personal relevance in a given situation.

Any Individual desiring to be an affiliate of the forum must:
– Demonstrate interest and passion for the forum’s objectives, vision and mission
– Be a sane individual of good standing
– To not be part of a scheme to discredit or undermine the forum
– Be ready to contribute efforts to the success of the forum’s vision and mission
– Be ready to participate in the forum’ activities
– Be ready to act with mutual respect and courteousness towards fellow members
– Due completion of the relevant form as required.

3. Partner
A WACSOF Partner is an organization that wishes to support the actualization of WACSOF’s mission through the contribution of technical or financial resources. Partnership with WACSOF envisages a specific agreement between WACSOF and the Partner to collaborate on clearly specified issues of mutual interest. Partners of WACSOF include organizations that may be interested in contributing financially to the realization of the organization’s activities including the following:

– Institutional Donors Financial and technical partners who may wish to provide grants,provision of technical tools and personnel to support the work of WACSOF
– Major Civil Society Networks with Subject matter specialty in one or more areas relevant to regional integration and Development in West Africa that are willing to contribute such expertise to the work of WACSOF through joint programmes and activities
– International Non-Governmental Organizations that may have presence at the regionalor national levels in Africa as a whole (but most especially West Africa), with which WACSOF can align through programmes and activities, or to which it can be a grantee or

All WACSOF’s partnerships shall be governed by specific agreements in the form of Memorandums of Understanding that specify the exact nature, subject and details of the partnership, by which both WACSOF and the partner are held accountable. These would be the terms by which they shall carry out joint activities, and projects with its partners.


In line with the institutional design and structuring of the organization, the process of stakeholder engagement is to be coordinated and managed by the WACSOF Secretariat, the operational organ of the institution. For ease of administration, the stakeholders of WACSOF shall be organized and engaged through different operational mechanisms and at different levels, and where the need arises. The stakeholder engagement process shall be managed through the following specific
1. National Platforms
2. Thematic Groups
3. Action Committees
Each of this is described Below.

National Platforms
Nationally, the organization’s stakeholders shall be organized into national platforms that will be set up in all the 15 West African countries. WACSOF national platforms shall draw the participation of all the organization’s stakeholders in the different countries. National platforms shall be organized in accordance with a uniform set of principles and modalities as adopted in a National Platforms

Thematic Groups
At the regional level, all stakeholders of the organization shall engage through WACSOF Thematic Groups, which are meant to bring organizations working on similar issues together so as to ensure that their activities are coordinated and mutually enriched. Thematic groups shall be constituted along any field of relevance to regional integration and development in West Africa. A Thematic Groups Manual shall be developed to guide the constitution and operationalization of the WACSOF Thematic Mechanism.

Action Committees
In project implementation and the programmes of the institution, the WACSOF Secretariat may draw on the support of WACSOF’s Stakeholders through setting up Action Committees. Action Committees shall be set up by the WACSOF Secretariat to advice and support it in the implementation of specific activities and programmes of the organization. The Action Committee shall draw membership from official members, affiliates and partners of the organization. Who are  best positioned to advice and facilitate implementation of the organization’s activities. The function of each Action Committee shall be clearly spelt out in a ‘Terms of Reference’ document that the WACSOF Secretariat shall develop as a guidance document for the committee.


In accordance with the WACSOF Stakeholder engagement strategy, becoming a stakeholder of WACSOF is by the conclusion of a formal relationship with WACSOF only. The following pages detail the requirements that must be met in order to qualify as a stakeholder of WACSOF. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and individuals will be eligible for listing as stakeholders if they subscribe to the vision of WACSOF as set out in its Charter as well as other background documents (copies are available on other section of the WACSOF Website).

Stakeholder status of the Forum implies an acceptance by members to be bound by the WACSOF Code of Conduct, or the commitment of partners and affiliates to active support WACSOF’s principles and objectives through technical and financial support.

Applications for Membership or Affiliate status will be evaluated on their meeting the criteria as stated in the stakeholder engagement strategy of the forum while each partnership arrangement is discussed, negotiated and concluded separately.

We are delighted that your interest in the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF).

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

The application process for WACSOF membership is as follows:
-Stage One: Applicants should submit a completed application form with the requested attachments (where applicable/ available) to the WACSOF Secretariat. There is a place to indicate on the form whether the organization is registered or not, since situations may vary in different countries (i.e. the organization may be an informal group, a loose network or coalition, or is not yet registered).
-Stage Two: The Secretariat will check that application materials are properly filed. Where additional information is required, applicants shall be contacted to provide appropriate updates.
-Stage Three: The WACSOF Secretariat will review all applications in consultations with the National Platform Leadership in the country from which the applicant comes. Where the application materials are properly filed, the Secretariat will request an approval of the applicant’s Membership from the Forum’s Executive Committee.
-Stage Four: The decision of the WACSOF Executive Committee shall then be made known in writing to the applicant by the WACSOF Secretariat. Approved members will be officially communicated through a membership approval letter and shall be issued a membership number along with a Unique Membership Certificate.
Membership of WACSOF is free of Charge!

The application process for WACSOF Affiliate status is as follows:
-Stage One: Applicants should submit a completed application form with the requested attachments (where applicable/ available) to the WACSOF Secretariat.
-Stage Two: The Secretariat will check that application materials are properly filed. Where additional information is required, applicants shall be contacted to provide appropriate updates.
-Stage Three: The WACSOF Secretariat will review all applications and notify the applicant on the status of the application, whether accepted or not.
Affiliation to WACSOF is free of Charge!

Each partnership shall be negotiated separately between WACSOF and the Partner. Partnership processes may be initiated in any of the following ways.
-By WACSOF Writing to the Partner to seek partnership around a specific issue or project.
-By WACSOF Responding to a call for proposals/ partnership put out by any institutional donor.
-By a Partner contacting WACSOF in the case of an opportunity.