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  • Report
  • 18 November 2020

Supporting longer term development in crises at the nexus: Lessons from Cameroon: Chapter 6

Programming approaches

chapter 6
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Best practice approaches to the nexus for development actors

The nexus is easier to comprehend in its practical application than in concept. This chapter outlines several programming approaches and models used by development actors to address vulnerability and risk and build resilience, peace and recovery in Cameroon, as captured in the research. It highlights areas of best practice and key gaps and challenges for learning purposes.

Frequent context analysis and review of development priorities

Reflecting commitments to align aid with government priorities, development actors usually provide support through long-term strategic partnership frameworks. These are often renewed every four to six years, with limited opportunities for review in light of context changes. Furthermore, the context assessments that inform these strategies are largely carried out at the outset and not regularly updated. For example, the EU’s National Indicative Programme 2014−2020, adopted before the onset of Cameroon’s crises, was not reviewed until the mid-term review in 2017. Even then, priorities were largely unchanged despite the deepening crisis in the northern regions. Interviewees report, however, that the EU did use the RPC strategy to adjust planning in 2018.

Some development actors have begun to adopt a more flexible strategic approach in crisis contexts. In line with its new Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence 2020–2025, the World Bank is working to increase its flexibility and be less risk averse when operating in crisis contexts.[1] The World Bank’s CPF in Cameroon for 2017−2021 only defined instruments for the first two to three years because of the degree of uncertainty of the political and security situation. A performance and learning review was produced two years into implementation to take stock of the latest developments and early results.[2] Furthermore, the CPF includes a commitment to tailor programme design, implementation and management in the Far North to the presence of active conflict, for example through third-party implementation (such as by UN agencies or NGOs), security arrangements for missions to insecure areas, third-party monitoring, and making greater use of technology (such as geo-localised video/photography and satellite imagery). This has enabled the World Bank to address operational challenges given the security context. For example, the World Bank financed the rehabilitation of the Mora–Kousseri road,[3] through areas frequently attacked by Boko Haram, and relied on collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers.[4]

At a programmatic level, donors and implementing agencies experience practical challenges of shifting towards adaptive programme approaches. Recognising the need to plan in the context of uncertainty, some UN agencies are using multi-scenario planning. For example, FAO’s strategy for the Lake Chad Basin is designed with a flexible operational framework and multi-scenario planning.[5] Similarly, UNICEF has used multi-scenario planning, with a range of programmatic responses to various potential situations and mitigation strategies. As another example, during the implementation of its 2013−2017 programme, UNDP redirected its activities towards communities most affected by the conflict in the Far North.[6]

Shifting towards durable solutions for refugees, IDPs and host communities

The protracted refugee crisis in the East and Adamawa regions of Cameroon has experienced a gradual shift from a focus on humanitarian assistance (direct assistance to displaced populations) to supporting longer term livelihoods in crisis-affected communities and promoting access to national social protection systems. There is also a shift from targeting refugees to engaging both refugees and host communities in support of refugees’ integration and social cohesion. At a policy level, UN agencies (led by UNHCR) have advocated for inclusion of refugees in national development frameworks and supported access to public services for refugees and host communities (Box 6).

The World Bank, working in partnership with UNHCR, has been a key actor supporting this approach in line with its strategic shift to target vulnerable and crisis-affected communities. The World Bank’s Community Development Program Support Project Response to Forced Displacement, funded through the IDA18 RSW, for example, has enabled a wider reach to cover both displaced and host populations. Through this project, the World Bank and partners work with local councils to develop a participatory planning processes, encouraging local authorities to consider inclusion of refugees in local government prioritisation and decision-making. Other relevant programmes include the Social Safety Net Project that has helped refugees gain access to social protection in the East and Adamawa regions.[7]

While the World Bank’s RSW is helping support a paradigm shift towards long-term solutions for refugees and host communities, there is currently no equivalent instrument to address protracted internal displacement. This is an important gap, given that IDP numbers are far higher than refugees.[8] Although IDP circumstances are different from those of refugees, much of the learning from refugee contexts is relevant to IDPs and challenges faced are similar. For example, many of the IDPs in the Southwest and Northwest regions live in overcrowded conditions without dignified shelter or basic hygiene and domestic items.[9] Broader area-based development focusing on community recovery (safety, infrastructure and livelihoods) can be key to return or integration. Learning from the World Bank–UNHCR collaboration on refugees in the East could inform a broader approach to forced displacement that includes IDPs, particularly in the north as a context more conducive to recovery than the English-speaking regions. The World Bank in Cameroon could consider a programme to support host communities and address community recovery and IDPs jointly with other interested development partners such as the EU, building on the work in the East and Adamawa regions and the existing National Community Driven Development Program (PNDP, a country-wide local development programme funded by AFD, the EU and World Bank to finance employment support in the Far North).

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Box 6

UNHCR support to durable solutions for refugees

UNHCR’s Cameroon Multi-Year Multi-Partner Strategy 2018−2020 outlines how strategic partnerships with development players, in particular the World Bank, can be leveraged to integrate refugees in national systems and improve access to public services for both host communities and refugees.[10] UNHCR has built a strong partnership with the World Bank and played a key role in mobilising IDA18’s RSW funding in Cameroon.

As reflected in its Livelihoods Strategy for Refugees in Cameroon (2018), UNHCR has sought to not only provide short-term assistance to refugees but also improve their access to land, employment, health and education. It has also advocated for inclusion of refugees and others into national social protection systems to sustainably and significantly reduce their dependency on humanitarian assistance. The strategy targets: CAR refugees living in the East, Adamawa and North regions, Nigerian refugees living in the Far North, urban refugees of all nationalities living in Yaoundé and Douala, and host populations, including IDPs.[11]

Inclusion of refugees in the Social Safety Net Project began in 2019 with support from UNHCR and funding from the World Bank. As the coverage of this programme remains initially limited, UNHCR has provided additional support to widen the reach of government programmes.[12] This project aims to support refugees with their basic needs (via a regular monthly payment) and with longer term income-generating activities (i.e. annual cash grants to invest in livelihoods activities such as buying seeds, tools and livestock or starting a business).

UNICEF has played an important role in supporting longer term development solutions for refugees. UNICEF initially worked to support the government to build temporary schools for refugees. After four to five years, UNICEF advocated with the Ministry for Basic Education to integrate these temporary schools into the public school system, which was adopted last year. This benefits pupils mostly from the refugee community but also from the host community.

The national response to Covid-19 demonstrates where the nexus is operationalised through sequential humanitarian and development programming, as is crucial for laying the foundations for longer term socioeconomic support beyond health. For example, for hand washing where water is scarce, humanitarian actors such as UNHCR in the Far North provide additional water through water trucking.[13] At the same time, development actors are scoping opportunities for sustainable solutions (e.g. water piping). PNDP is in touch with UNHCR to find sustainable solutions to be supported through the programme.

Laying the foundations for development and recovery during a crisis

The Far North region offers several examples of parallel humanitarian and development programming. The major bilateral and multilateral donors (World Bank, France, EU, African Development Bank, Germany, the UK and the US) support the African Union’s Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery & Resilience of the Lake Chad Basin Region. In this context, a range of donors and UN agencies support economic recovery, livelihoods, resilience, security and rule of law programmes in parallel with ongoing humanitarian assistance. This is a foundation for stability and addressing humanitarian need in the longer term. Many programmes have a focus on stabilisation and countering violent extremism, which by name and concept suggests a close alignment with political and/or security ambitions.

Although interviewees highlight that these programmes usually focus on recovery and development and are only labelled as ‘stabilisation’ for funding purposes, this raises questions about the appropriateness of humanitarian–peace collaboration in this context given the imperative to safeguard humanitarian principles, and highlights the need to build consensus on the ambitions for peace in the nexus (see ‘Integrating peace as an approach’ later in this chapter).

  • FAO adopted a Lake Chad Basin crisis response strategy for 2017–2019 to support conflict prevention, peace and stability by improving food security, rehabilitating agriculture and build resilience.[14]
  • UNDP’s actions have been scaled up in the Far North and focus on immediate recovery and stabilisation through strengthening security and rule of law, access to basic services, and revitalising the local economy.[15] Its 2018−2020 programme includes thematic priorities on: social cohesion, stabilisation and prevention of violent extremism; and entrepreneurship and local economic integration.
  • AFD is continuing work in the North and Far North where it supports highly labour-intensive work for communities in unstable areas to access employment.
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) implemented a programme funded by the EU and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to build the socioeconomic resilience of vulnerable youth in northern Cameroon between 2016 and 2019 through cash-for-work activities, training and start-up assistance.[16]
  • The World Bank’s 2017−2021 CPF has a strong focus on human development and strengthening resilience to economic, environmental and conflict-related shocks in Cameroon’s northern regions.[17] A 2019 review further increased emphasis on the northern regions.[18]
  • FAO, UNDP, UN-Habitat and UNICEF have designed a new two-year participative programme focused on building recovery and human security in the Far North region in close coordination with local authorities.

Mainstreaming efforts to build resilience through development programmes

Building the resilience of crisis-affected communities is a pathway by which development actors can reduce vulnerability, strengthen preparedness and address the risk of crisis, filling the gap between immediate life-saving and longer term development assistance. While some donors consider resilience to fall under the responsibility of humanitarian actors (e.g. USAID), a significant number of development actors now regard building resilience as their responsibility and have explicitly focused on this issue through programming. For example, the World Bank prioritises resilience in the Far North in the 2017–2021 CPF and is supporting resilience through various programmes; the EU Bêkou Trust Fund focused explicitly on programmes to build resilience; and the UNDAF includes ‘resilience’ as its fourth pillar.

UN agencies have collaborated on combined programmes, including joint resilience initiatives in northern and eastern Cameroon.[19] UNICEF leads the UN’s joint programme on resilience and the fourth ‘resilience’ pillar in the current UNDAF.[20] FAO’s Lake Chad Basin crisis response strategy 2017–2019 is one example of this.[21] WFP supports refugees and host communities to build longer term resilience to enable communities to sustain their assets through crisis periods to re-establish their livelihoods quickly.[22]

Investing in building community resilience to the impacts of climate change is also important from this perspective, especially given the vulnerability of the Far North region to drought and crop failure. Some actors have a specific focus on climate change: UNDP, for example, includes an objective on the environment, natural resources and climate change in its 2017−2020 plan. However, climate change is broadly not prioritised, presenting a clear missed opportunity from a resilience perspective.

While development actors have clearly stepped up their support to resilience in Cameroon, for sustainability it is vital that the concept of resilience is not regarded as an end in itself but an approach to development programmes in places where there is a risk of crisis. As such, in addition to targeted and stand-alone programmes, it is vital that a resilience approach is systematically mainstreamed into all development programmes.


Integrating peace as an approach

Collaboration between HDP actors in regions with ongoing armed conflict in the north (related to the Boko Haram conflict) and west (related to the English-speaking separatist movement) has been challenging for many reasons. Peacebuilding in the English-speaking regions is a difficult and politically sensitive endeavour, given the government’s role in the conflict, and most development partners have avoided it. Nevertheless, as noted in Box 4, the inclusion of the English-speaking regions in the strategy of the Nexus Taskforce could open doors for a greater focus on peace. Similarly, concerns have been raised in the context of stabilisation and counter-insurgency efforts in the Far North that humanitarian action may be instrumentalised for political ends, leaving fewer resources available to address needs outside a stabilisation framework and potentially increasing protection risks for the civilian population in the short term.[23] In both contexts, humanitarian actors have voiced concern about the need to safeguard humanitarian space, maintain independence from political agendas, and ensure needs-based targeting.

Thus, while some information sharing or coordination is possible (e.g. to negotiate access), there is limited scope for an integrated response. Nonetheless, collaboration between development and peace and security actors is possible, and development programming can be oriented to explicitly address peace and security objectives. Development actors vary in their commitments to address peace and fragility, but many have committed to stay engaged during conflict, think and work politically, and enhance the coherence of the security and development support. This is evident in stabilisation programmes in the north. In the west, many development actors initially suspended their programmes due to risks associated with the government’s active role in the conflict as well as security risks, however some have begun to rethink their engagement and partnerships to reflect new security and conflict dynamics.

Although direct collaboration may not be desirable in all contexts, all humanitarian and development actors have a responsibility to ensure their support is conflict sensitive. This may fall on a spectrum from avoiding harm to promoting peace. In displacement contexts, most actors recognise the importance of promoting social cohesion between host communities and refugees and IDPs, but many are less clear on how to integrate peace and conflict sensitivity in active conflict or other humanitarian contexts. Some development actors have been slow to acknowledge Cameroon’s fragility or adapt their strategies and partnership with the government to reflect conflict dynamics. They have had to balance the desire to maintain a constructive relationship with the government (by responding to its priorities) with the need for structural reforms to adequately address crisis-affected regions. As a minimum, development and humanitarian actors should take steps to internalise conflict sensitivity, including by investing in in-house analytical capacity and expertise. In addition, conflict sensitivity implies moving towards more inclusive planning processes, for example encouraging consultations around the National Development Plan.