A STEP TOWARDS A THRIVING SOCIETY AND SUSTAINABILITY
The resolutions arrived at towards the culmination of the Major National Dialogue was met with praise by some, and with disdain by others who felt more had to be done, especially on the part of the government. Unarguably, the agenda of the Dialogue was primarily centred on finding resolves for the ongoing conflict in the North West and South West Regions, a conflict which has had very devastating effects on the denizens of the affected area, especially on the youth. One fact is certain though: the youth were kept at bay during all the discussions and negotiations. Decisions were made and agreements were arrived at without any opinion or feedback from the youth who are most affected by a conflict they didn’t stir. As always, the Silents and Baby Boomers did what they do best: ignore the Millennials and Zoomers and call all the shots as though they will be impacted by these decisions they take in the not-so-distant future.
They tend to forget that they have had their time and it is only right that they share their experiences and expertise with the incoming generation.
The Major National Dialogue was a chance for Cameroon’s leaders to address a lot of other ills plaguing the Cameroonian society, not just the conflict in the North West and South West Regions, but other issues happening across the rest of the country, and on a public stage no less. This was a chance for Cameroon’s leaders to listen to the opinions of their youth – especially those in the conflict-hit regions – to support them and to act in their best interests. Cameroon needs to talk about youth underrepresentation in the aspects, operations, and decisions pertaining to civil society, the economy, and why not politics. No wonder why Cameroonian youth do not show the slightest concern or interest in the affairs of their country: the nation’s leaders are already very
content with the privileges their offices offer, to the extent that a blind eye is cast on the needs and development of the country’s future leaders.
It is critical to recognise the multiple and diverse impacts the conflict in the North West and South West Regions already has and will have on young people and their human rights. These include, among many others: the right to health, the right to safety, the right to employment, the right to peace and security, and the right to education. These rights should have been discussed and plausible solutions developed during the Major National Dialogue. The Dialogue was the government’s opportunity to seek out and craft means to strategically partner the youth to leverage their innovation, creative ideas, labour, and resourcefulness. Recognising young people’s own actions and their potential to advance the efforts against the conflict and other societal ills are crucial towards creating a thriving, sustainable society. There are plenty of neglected and forgotten citizens out there, and it will be in the nation’s best interest if the
government in their part can provide expert support to the youth, including policy simulation and costing exercises, to amend or develop new strategic and normative frameworks to enable national partners to effectively address poverty and social exclusion through improved targeting and coverage of vulnerable groups with social protection programs and assistance.
We the young people are the torchbearers of our sustainable development; we are already advocating for and working towards ensuring impactful actions to drive transformative change, at scale, leaving no one behind. For us to achieve our target, our leaders, in their fullest capacity, should pave the way for us, while considering several important elements, such as inclusion and participation, long-term commitment, and trust.
Efforts to mitigate and address the impact of the conflict must include provisions that are responsive to young people’s needs and uphold their rights, or youth specific provisions when needed. More decent jobs are part of the solutions to mitigate the impact of the conflict in order to reduce poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition simultaneously.
The most important way that Cameroonian leaders can purposefully engage with young people is by investing in quality foundational education. To do this, the pedagogy of education in Cameroon must change. Foundational learning must reflect the needs of the local economy, but also help Cameroonian youth compete globally. Education must focus on key competencies, such as literacy, analytics, problem-solving and critical thinking. These skills are necessary for completing higher education and vocational training, as well as increasing employability. These skills are also the foundation for the innovations needed in any crisis recovery.
Civil society organisations (CSO’s) were also largely underrepresented in the Major National Dialogue. Representatives from CSO’s ought to have participated in the Dialogue. They are better positioned to provide insights as to the happenings in the conflict-hit regions. Worth noting is that the conflict in the North West and South West Regions have put even more pressure on the universality and quality of education systems – and on the capacity of the Cameroonian government to track and respond to those impacts – civil society organisations can play an important role in ensuring that crisis response is targeted to the most vulnerable and sustained through the recovery phase.
To play this role, however, it is vital that civil society organisations be supported to advocate for measures to protect and prioritize the most vulnerable – including using their influence to inform government priorities in the emergency and recovery phases of the conflict. Budget monitoring, grassroots social mobilization, and tracking the quality and reach of service delivery will all be important elements of civic engagement to rebuild education during and after the conflict.
Civic organisations must be able to ask: How are public resources – especially in the education sector – reallocated and spent to protect the most vulnerable members of our societies? What measures work to sustain learning for the poorest and how can we apply this knowledge to improve education equality post-crisis? To do this, civic organisations can:
i. design accountability strategies responsive to critical issues in the evolving policy context,
ii. improve the transparency, participation, and accountability of education sector policy dialogue,
iii. increase the availability, sources, and variety of information to formulate and act on relevant policy solutions, and
iv. mobilize citizens as right holders to play an active role in monitoring the implementation of education policies and finance and use this information to hold duty bearers at all levels accountable.
The future of education recovery will be built by these civic networks, working actively with young people and the wider communities to help ensure that education systems are strengthened to serve and include the most marginalized.
Now is not the time to step back from education but to stand with young people as we tell the world education is key to recovery, essential to protect and save our future, and fundamental to our ability to innovate our way out of ‘the Anglophone Crisis and mitigate future crises. The situation urgently requires a collective response from people who think open democracy can deliver results for citizens in ways autocracies cannot. It is not enough to bemoan the problem of democratic backsliding. A stronger coalition of the government, civil society organisations, and leaders needs to happen for permanent change and a resilient, thriving, and sustainable Cameroon.
By Mafany Tande Myles