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  • Report
  • 18 November 2020

Supporting longer term development in crises at the nexus: Lessons from Cameroon: Chapter 3

Policy and strategy

chapter 3
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Limited government commitment to a long-term strategy

A central challenge has been the lack of a clear vision and common strategy for engaging in the different crisis-affected regions in Cameroon. In an effort to address this gap, the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Land Planning (MINEPAT), in partnership with the EU, UN and World Bank, developed the RPC Strategy for Northern and East Cameroon 2018–2022 through a participatory process. The RPC strategy aims to reduce the long-standing socioeconomic marginalisation of the North, Far North, Adamawa and East regions, although it does not include the English-speaking regions or fully integrate a ‘peace’ perspective (Appendix 2). Nonetheless, this strategy presents a clear opportunity to bridge humanitarian and development approaches in northern and eastern Cameroon.[1] Notably, the RPC strategy identifies priorities for government reform, including the adoption of a strategy for forcibly displaced people and the revision of communal development plans and the Public Investment Budget to better include the needs of crisis-affected populations. However, while a strong collective strategy is in place, the process for implementation has stalled as the Presidency is yet to endorse it.

Most international actors still see the RPC strategy as the starting point for a sustainable solution for displaced and vulnerable populations in northern and eastern Cameroon and are working towards its adoption. There are proposals from donors through dialogue with the government about including the RPC strategy’s priorities in the new National Development Strategy 2020−2030. Furthermore, the UN system has aligned its programming with the RPC strategy in terms of geographical scope, timeframe and thematic focus. As an example, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2018−2020 explicitly aims “to serve as a framework for transitioning from humanitarian action into development by mainstreaming well targeted post-crisis resilience and early recovery strategies... especially by restoring basic social services and re-launching economic activities”.[2] The 16 UN agencies present in Cameroon have adapted their engagement in line with the UNDAF and the HRP. The RPC strategy has also informed the strategy of the new UN-led Nexus Taskforce (see ‘Coordination, prioritisation and planning’ chapter).

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Three distinct crises with separate strategic responses

Without a government-endorsed strategy to address Cameroon’s crises and bring together HDP approaches, development and humanitarian actors have largely pursued separate strategic responses to each crisis. Although the systemic marginalisation of peripheral regions is a driver to all three crises, they each have distinct political, security and environmental causes and dynamics – and the Lake Chad Basin and CAR crises have important regional and cross-border dimensions. Thus, while the responses to the three crises should be harmonised and interlinked, each crisis also requires a distinct response, making the engagement of development actors complex.

The Lake Chad Basin regional crisis

Donors, including the World Bank, France, EU, African Development Bank, Germany, the UK and the US, have begun to scale up development programmes aimed at strengthening resilience and stabilising the Lake Chad Basin since 2016.[3] In 2018, the African Union Lake Chad Basin Commission adopted at a ministerial level the Regional Strategy for Stabilisation, Recovery and Resilience of the Boko Haram-affected Areas of the Lake Chad Basin Region (RSS). It provides a framework for the engagement of humanitarian, development and security partners, with nine pillars spanning peace and security, social and economic recovery, and humanitarian dimensions.

In 2019, UNDP launched the Regional Stabilisation Facility for Lake Chad to facilitate the implementation of the RSS with a planned budget of US$ 100 million, funded by Germany, the EU, Sweden and the UK. In this context, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNDP have played a leading role in longer term development, recovery and resilience activities in the North and Far North regions. The World Bank has also scaled up its engagement in 2020, approving the US$170 million Lake Chad Region Recovery and Development Project, which includes US$60 million in financing for Cameroon. This supports the recovery of agricultural livelihoods in the Far North of Cameroon (and selected areas of Chad and Niger), the restoration of rural mobility and connectivity around the lake through the rehabilitation of rural roads and transport infrastructure, and regional and national capacity-building.[4]

Development programming in the North and Far North has often been delivered under the banner of preventing violent extremism and stabilisation, for example those funded or delivered by USAID, the EU, UNDP and the French Development Agency (AFD) (see ‘Programming approaches’ chapter). Interviewees report that some agencies present livelihoods-focused activities as ‘stabilisation’ projects to attract funding. At the same time, although activities may look similar, stabilisation-focused livelihoods and economicrecovery programmes often have peace and security objectives, rather than strictly socioeconomic objectives. This can result in fundamental differences in how they are implemented, including in their beneficiaries, geographic focus and approach.

There are opportunities for a nexus approach in these regions, particularly in terms of development and peacebuilding actors laying the foundations for recovery, peace and development, in parallel with humanitarian assistance. Direct collaboration between humanitarian and stabilisation-focused development actors is challenging given the need for humanitarian actors to maintain needs-based targeting and independence from political/security objectives, and that some development actors are deliberately serving security objectives. Nevertheless, there may be an opportunity here for development actors to make a greater contribution to addressing vulnerability through support to livelihoods and economic opportunities.

Long-term solutions for CAR refugees and host communities

In the East and Adamawa, and to a certain extent in the North and Far North, international assistance has shifted towards longer term resilience and development activities, with a decline in humanitarian assistance. UN agencies have strengthened their focus on recovery and resilience in these regions in line with the UNDAF 2018−2020 and the UN Country Team’s leadership on the nexus. This includes working with the government and strengthening collaboration with development partners, such as the World Bank, to expand support to both refugees and host communities and to shift towards vulnerability-based rather than status-based targeting.

This crisis is conducive to a nexus approach − specifically the engagement of development and peace actors in addressing longer term livelihood needs and conflict dynamics between refugees and host populations. While there are still humanitarian needs due to the ongoing arrival of CAR refugees, the ‘active crisis’ phase has passed, and most of the needs today are structural and development related.

International engagement with the crisis in English-speaking regions

The English-speaking regions have witnessed a withdrawal of development actors since the conflict escalated due to the direct involvement of the government in the conflict and associated risks of politicisation from continuing this partnership, as well as security risks to staff. A number of major development actors including the World Bank and Germany pulled out of the Southwest and Northwest, or suspended agricultural and other development programmes that benefit vulnerable populations, and some EU infrastructure projects were not renewed or put on hold.[5] Some actors continue to implement development programmes where possible; for example, EU projects funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and banana-production support measures are ongoing, and three new projects funded under EU Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace are due to start up shortly. However, overall, there has been a contraction of development assistance in these regions, with implications for longer term livelihoods.

To fill this gap, development actors need to identify ways to navigate their relationship with the government and opposition groups and to adapt their programmes, including by working with non-governmental partners. There have been several notable efforts to develop a new basis for development actors to engage in the region. The government has recently launched the Presidential Plan for Reconstruction and Development.[6] The plan has been rejected by separatist and non-state armed groups. While development partners remain sceptical, some donors have expressed interest in supporting the first phase of this plan focusing on recovery to be implemented by UNDP. UNDP is currently engaging with non-state armed groups to overcome blockages and generate acceptance for recovery efforts. Also, the World Bank is exploring how to (re)engage in the Northwest and Southwest regions, taking an integrated approach to IDPs, refugees and host communities, and adapting current education and health programmes.[7] It is currently undertaking a vulnerability assessment in the regions.

This crisis is considered the least conducive for a nexus approach because the conflict is still active, with very limited access, and the government’s involvement makes it highly politically sensitive for international actors. There is a clear need to need to safeguard humanitarian space. But all actors can integrate conflict sensitivity and peace as an approach. Development actors need to review their partnerships with the government given current conflict dynamics and decide how to engage, which will also depend on their appetite for political and security risk and their added value. There may be opportunities for nexus collaboration through focusing on IDPs and host communities in neighbouring regions and supporting populations in the English-speaking regions to recover, sustain livelihoods and lay foundations for longer term development as soon as the situation allows.


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    Germany withdrew agricultural programmes from the Southwest and Northwest regions, France stopped its development programmes in 2017, and the World Bank pulled out from the English-speaking regions where it was running a programme to support the most vulnerable people. Some actors, such as CARE and AFD (supporting small holders and micro projects), are continuing to implement programmes where possible and the security situation allows. Others are working in neighbouring regions hosting IDPs (e.g. BMZ (the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development)). But these remain limited in number and scale.
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