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  • Report
  • 18 November 2020

Supporting longer term development in crises at the nexus: Lessons from Cameroon: Chapter 5

Coordination, prioritisation and planning

chapter 5
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Strong coordination mechanisms bringing HDP actors together

Coordination takes place in silos with stronger coordination mechanisms on the humanitarian than the development side. While humanitarian action is coordinated by UN OCHA through the cluster system, the main mechanism for bilateral and multilateral donor coordination on the development side is the largely non-functioning Multi-Partner Committee (Comité Multipartenaires) chaired by MINEPAT and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC). Donors reportedly coordinate informally given the lack of a formal mechanism, but the key challenge is the engagement and leadership of the government as a prerequisite for effective coordination of development, and HDP actors, more broadly.

Several recent initiatives, however, offer opportunities to strengthen coordination among HDP actors in Cameroon. In 2019, the UN RC/HC established the Nexus Taskforce (Box 4) co-chaired by OCHA and UNDP to facilitate joined-up planning between HDP actors as part of the joint UN–World Bank initiative to pilot the triple nexus in three countries. The Nexus Taskforce focuses strategically on addressing the needs of refugees, IDPs and host communities in the Far North, North, Adamawa, East, Northwest and Southwest. At the time of research, interviewees were unclear on the specific support available at country level through the UN-World Bank initiative. Nevertheless, the UN Country Team did receive funding for an HDP Nexus Coordinator through the Humanitarian-Development-Peacebuilding and Partnerships Facility managed by the Peacebuilding Support Office to support nexus efforts between the UN and the World Bank. The national response to Covid-19 has also created lessons and coordination structures that could be built upon in the long term (Box 5). Finally, if the government adopts the RPC strategy, this presents an opportunity to establish an institutional mechanism for coordinating its delivery.[1]

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Box 4

Nexus Taskforce: An opportunity for coordination

Membership and buy-in: The Taskforce is composed of UN agencies, government representatives, international and national NGOs, and donors. It was conceived, and is led by, the UN, specifically UNDP and OCHA. The challenge with establishing nexus-focused mechanisms in other contexts has often been the perception that the nexus is the responsibility of humanitarian actors. To date, key development partners, especially the World Bank, have been actively participating in meetings, and government representatives from various ministries have attended. However, interviewees report that the government’s political buy-in to the nexus remains to be confirmed, with a lack of strong leadership or ownership from any one ministry. Cross-government buy-in and participation of all relevant ministries will be crucial to the success of the Taskforce, and it is vital that international actors expand their relationships with the government to cover a range of ministries in support of this. Interviewees report that the government's main interest in the nexus and the Taskforce appears financial rather than strategic − to attract development funding as a solution to the crisis in English-speaking regions, and in support of host communities and IDPs.

Vision and objectives: The Taskforce's primary objective is that humanitarian, development and peace actors converge, coordinate and synchronise interventions in selected areas (‘areas of convergence’) at the municipality level, based on specific criteria and crisis dynamics. The Taskforce also seeks to strengthen coordination across actors at operational (municipality), departmental and national (through the HDP Nexus Steering Committee) levels. Some actors, including UN agencies and NGOs, are keen to use the Taskforce and nexus approach to attract more funding to Cameroon, including to finance increased coordination.

Geographical targeting: In targeting crisis-affected regions at the municipality level, the Taskforce can strengthen development engagement in these regions, as a crucial aspect of engaging effectively on the nexus and overcoming structural and capacity barriers that have prevented development actors from engaging directly and targeting vulnerable populations. The municipalities were selected in September 2020, based on the following criteria: shock situation evolving into a protracted crisis; the stability index developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the level of commitment from municipal leadership and communities; the existing or potential presence and capacity; and the impact of Covid-19.

Strategy: The collective outcome identified is based on the RPC strategy and aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework: by the end of 2025, refugees, IDPs and host and originating communities in the Far North, East, Northwest and Southwest regions “recover indiscriminately their fundamental rights and improve their physical wellbeing and social welfare”.[2] In line with the collective outcomes approach, this has been broken down into narrower and more measurable outcomes (see three pillars, below). The inclusion of the English-speaking regions is significant, as they are not prioritised in the RPC strategy and other development frameworks. This presents an opportunity to strengthen support for livelihoods of vulnerable populations in these regions, to address the persisting gap. Joint action plans will be developed for each of the selected areas of convergence, and the Taskforce is integrating the HDP nexus and this collective outcome into all relevant frameworks and policies, including the new National Development Plan, Communal Development Plan, communal annual investment programmes, UN frameworks and technical/financial partnership agreements.

The three strategic pillars of the Nexus Taskforce:

  1. Basic social services. By the end of 2025, people living in areas of convergence have equitable and sustainable access to basic social services.
  2. Sustainable livelihoods and economic opportunities. By the end of 2025, vulnerable people living in areas of convergence have equitable and sustainable access to livelihoods and economic opportunities.
  3. Protection, social cohesion and local governance. By the end of 2025, good local governance and the consolidation of peace protect the fundamental rights of people living in areas of convergence.

Challenges: These include: legitimate buy-in from across the government; the ability of the UN to influence large donors in a country where its influence is limited; the integration of justice and peace; and how to engage in the English-speaking regions given the government's involvement in the crisis there.

Although there is a range of data and information-sharing initiatives,[3] donors primarily undertake their own assessments to inform planning without coordinating with others. Joined-up assessment and analysis can provide the basis for a shared vision and strategy among HDP actors. Several recent and planned joint assessments offer a starting point for enhancing HDP collaboration:

  • The Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment methodology used to develop the RPC strategy is a good example of joined-up needs assessment and planning that involved a range of actors including the government. It provided a strong evidence base to help create a shared understanding of needs, vulnerability and risk in the northern and eastern regions. It was used to inform prioritisation decisions by the Nexus Taskforce and used in the Humanitarian Needs Overview, the Common Country Assessment, World Bank data, market trends and human rights reports.[4]
  • The Nexus Taskforce is also in discussion with the OECD DAC regarding opportunities to undertake a resilience system analysis as a way of deepening analysis and identifying opportunities for building greater coherence between humanitarian and development actors.
  • In response to Covid-19, a comprehensive national household survey of socioeconomic needs and impact is planned by the government (MINEPAT) and UN agencies (Box 5) to create a common basis for joint planning.

Thus far, these have been one-off assessments. The Nexus Taskforce offers a platform for regular joint analysis, information sharing and review of strategic priorities, which were largely absent in Cameroon. Indeed, while it is too early to fully assess the effectiveness of the Taskforce, it has made a promising start on addressing the ‘structural coordination gap and evidence gap’ identified in earlier research.[5]

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Box 5

Collaboration between HDP actors in response to Covid-19

A strong level of coordination has emerged in the response to Covid-19 in Cameroon − led by the government and the UN − and focuses explicitly on the prevention, containment and longer term socioeconomic impacts of the health crisis. The government has developed the national action plan, setting out priorities such as reinforcing social, economic and financial resilience, promoting research and innovation, and addressing short and longer term needs.[6] It has a focus on: strengthening social protection (including adaptation or extension of existing social safety nets); free access to medical services for the most vulnerable; support measures for vulnerable households (including refugees and IDPs); delay to electricity and running water bills; ‘cash for work’ programmes or transfers of money or subsidies for basic necessities; and work with municipalities in delaying accommodation bills.

Building on a framework proposed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Group,[7] and aligning with the Cameroon government plan, the UN is supporting the government to address the socioeconomic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, as set out in the UN Country Preparedness and Response Plan.[8] This plan is based on an initial rapid assessment undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify regions at high risk and by UNHCR to identify risks for refugees and host populations.

There is an established division of responsibilities for implementing the UN plan. UNICEF is leading on educational and risks communication and community engagement aspects, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund; UNHCR and partners on support to refugees and host communities; World Food Programme (WFP) on operations and logistics; IOM on borders/entry points; and the WHO on the overall response in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, Secretary General and the Department for the Control of Disease, Epidemics and Pandemics. National coordination mechanisms are led by the Ministry of Public Health and WHO and through the UN Agencies’ Covid-19 Taskforce, which is led by OCHA. The RC and Resident Coordinator’s Office chairs a weekly meeting with technical and financial partners, where WHO, Centre Pasteur, the Cameroon Development Corporation, IOM and UNICEF present regular updates; ad hoc interventions of the Centre des Opérations des Urgences de Santé Publique, WFP and the Pandemic Modelling Working Group are also factored. This group tracks in-kind and financial contributions for the response to Covid-19.

Coordination structures at the local and regional levels are also crucial for an effective response and reaching the most vulnerable people in crisis-affected regions. Interviewees report that coordination takes place informally between UN agencies (e.g. UNHCR medical staff). Staff coordinate with the regional and district hospitals and health centres in East, Adamawa, North and Far North regions. However, a challenge to coordination at local levels is that municipalities lead the response with limited funding, as a symptom of the slow-moving decentralisation process. Interviewees report that support to communities outside major cities is limited, as a result of poor funding to municipalities. There is a recurrent coordination meeting with the Minister of Health and regional health delegates, together with WHO, which has improved information sharing and response.

A separate plan has been developed by UNDP and MINEPAT – the United Nations Covid-19 Socio-Economic Response Plan for Cameroon – to support in addressing longer term socioeconomic impacts with emphasis on social cohesion; a theme not comprehensively covered in the government’s response plan.[9] It focuses on strengthening health systems, macroeconomic stability, social resilience and support to vulnerable households.

Both the government and the UN plans were informed by a survey of households and enterprises completed in May 2020, financed by UN agencies. The survey was implemented by the government with the support from the Covid-19 Socioeconomic Task Force set up by the UN RC and coordinated by UNDP and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. A second phase of the Covid-19 socioeconomic impact studies will be undertaken over upcoming months with an in-depth focus in three sectors: economy, social, and research and innovation. It will be important to integrate strategies for addressing the longer term socioeconomic impacts of Covid-19 into the Nexus Taskforce to ensure a sustainable nexus approach to the impacts of the pandemic.

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Coordinated planning within agencies between HDP staff

Coordination within agencies is just as important as that between them and is especially relevant for multi-mandate organisations. As demonstrated in our research on donor approaches to the triple nexus,[10] there is often a strong internal division between staff members with responsibilities for development and humanitarian assistance in most donors and implementing agencies. At HQ level, different ministries are often responsible for humanitarian and development affairs and budgets are separate, which makes collaboration and coherence difficult.

However, there are some examples of efforts to break internal silos at the country level. UN agencies in Cameroon have made significant progress in putting the nexus into practice across the UN system[11] with strong leadership from the RC/HC since 2017 (see ‘Organisational issues’ chapter). The UN carries out its own joined-up assessment every two years: the Common Country Assessment, which is used to develop the UNDAF and UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). While UN OCHA uses a different assessment to produce humanitarian response plans – the Humanitarian Needs Overview – there is significant data overlap and demonstrated complementarity. The UN is currently undertaking its Common Country Assessment to inform its UNSDCF, which will reportedly have a strong focus on the nexus. However, some interviewees report that the UN will incorporate a nexus component under the social pillar of its UNSDCF, and it will be important that efforts to build collaboration, coherence and complementarity are mainstreamed across all pillars.

There is also evidence of collaborative working across humanitarian and development portfolios within donors. The EU’s Department for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) and the EC’s Department of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) have been cited as an example of good internal coordination, particularly in terms of mobilising funding jointly under EU trust funds and for the Pro-Resilience Action project in the East and Adamawa regions, through regular communication with headquarters, joint planning and prioritisation.


  • 3
    For example, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix has been monitoring IDPs in the Far North, Northwest and Southwest, and UNHCR is monitoring refugee arrivals. Last year, IOM launched its Stability Index in the Far North to measure stability in return areas and identified ‘pockets of stability’ to enable actors to plan for more adapted programming. The Ministry of Decentralisation and Local Development is establishing an information-sharing framework on needs at the local level and UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Social Affairs to develop a unified social registry to identify the most vulnerable populations based on multidimensional indicators at the division level.
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