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Supporting longer term development in crises at the nexus: Lessons from Cameroon: Chapter 8

Organisational issues

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Decentralised decision-making for flexibility and speed

The decision-making structures for most development agencies and donors providing assistance to Cameroon (and broadly) are centralised, with key decisions on programming priorities and funding made at HQ-level. As a result, decisions on funding (re)allocation can be slower than would be the case with decentralised decision-making. For example, the Minka Peace and Resilience Fund is managed by AFD’s Crisis Prevention and Post-Conflict Recovery Division based in Paris. Similarly, EU trust funds are managed in Brussels and EU decisions must be approved by the 27 EU member states, and US sectoral priorities are set by Congress. This means that the role of in-country staff is often limited to monitoring and managing partners. As such, there is a disconnect between centrally driven decisions and national planning processes, undermining coordination.

Decision-making on partnerships, assessments and budget (re)allocation, to agreed limits as a minimum, should be driven by in-country staff for flexibility and effectiveness.

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Operationalisation of nexus commitments

Most development actors engaging in Cameroon have central policies to drive prioritisation and decision-making that focuses on nexus-related issues. This may not be ‘the nexus’ explicitly − but may include fragility, sustainable solutions for refugees, building resilience and reducing vulnerabilities, coherence and coordination between actors, which lay the foundations for engaging on the nexus.[1]

The application of these policy commitments at the country level is the key challenge faced by development actors. As demonstrated in Cameroon, this is in part due to absence of institutional guidance on how to operationalise these commitments, such as the OECD HDP nexus recommendation, and clarification of key terms. It is also fundamentally a result of other missing enabling factors such as decentralised decision-making, political will and access. Certain actors are taking steps towards production of guidance. The EU's Lives in Dignity policy, which includes action points on nexus-relevant issues such as flexible funding, coordinated assessments and programming, and joint analysis of risks and vulnerabilities, is such an example.[2] The new World Bank strategy for fragility, conflict, and violence 2020–2025 includes a table of measures to operationalise the strategy. While central guidance can play a key role, it is vital that it does not impose a blueprint and is balanced with a context specific and flexible approach.

As development actors generally see the term ‘nexus’ as ambiguous and unhelpful and regard it as a burden to add to existing priorities, guidance on operationalising it should clarify how the it relates to existing approaches to engaging in crisis (e.g. risk, resilience, fragility, recovery and inclusion) and existing commitments (e.g. delivering the SDGs). It would be appropriate to focus on building collaboration, coherence and complementarity with humanitarian and peace actors – as an approach rather than an end in itself – as opposed to treating the nexus as a new and distinct area of programming.

Learning from experience is central to operationalisation of the nexus, and some actors have started consolidating learning. For example, ECHO is assessing how much of the EU’s Lives in Dignity communication was operationalised at country level in Cameroon (and in three other partner countries). All development actors should undertake similar assessments to build a learning base for effective engagement in crisis contexts.

In-country skills developed through training, guidance and learning

Certain development actors, including the EU, the World Bank and UN agencies, have recruited in-country staff specifically to engage in crisis settings, and/or provided their staff with training on risk, resilience, security and the nexus. In its recent Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence 2020–2025, the World Bank included a commitment to strengthen its presence in crisis-affected countries.[3] When Cameroon started benefiting from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa in 2017, two new positions were created in the EU delegation to work on linking relief, rehabilitation and development: one focused on peace, security and migration, and one on refugees, forced displacement and resilience. Certain humanitarian actors have taken a similar approach, where UNHCR recruited development officers to support a transition to a more durable approach.

However, most development partners operating in Cameroon do not systematically consider skills across the nexus – or on risk, resilience and peace – in their recruitment, and globally there is a shortage of staff with expertise across all areas given entrenched silos. As a result, capacity is not always in the right place. When it is, this tends to be a coincidence rather than the outcome of a systematic decision, according to interviewees.

While the recruitment of staff with specific skills on nexus-related issues is important, this must be balanced with efforts to mainstream these skills across all staff posted in contexts at risk of or experiencing crisis to ensure that the nexus is not siloed but seen as the responsibility of all staff. Training modules should be developed and rolled out systematically for all staff working in crisis-affected contexts, in conjunction with ongoing technical support (which appears to be in place for most development actors, although capacities are often stretched and there is competition between countries for it).

Notes

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    Examples include: - EC adopted Lives in Dignity (2016), a policy framework to prevent forced displacement from becoming protracted and to decrease dependency on humanitarian assistance. - AFD’s Vulnerabilities to Crises and Resilience 2017−2021, the main framing document for engagement in fragile contexts for short-term responses to protracted crises. - The World Bank strategy adopted in February 2020, representing a shift from post-conflict reconstruction to engaging across all phases of fragility – from prevention to engagement during active conflict, to supporting transition out of fragility. UN agencies have also benefited from guidance from their leadership to engage on the nexus through the New Way of Working commitment and on collective outcomes in pilot countries.

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