On-going violent conflicts in certain parts of Cameroon is hampering its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, a study by the Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), has revealed.
Madam Kristina Miletic, Project Assistant Knowledge, Policy and Advocacy, GPPAC, presented the study findings in Accra at a stakeholders' validation meeting on the research on Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the SDGs organised by the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP).
GPPAC is a member-led network of civil society organisations working on conflict prevention and peace building across the world.
Madam Miletic said the Government of Cameroon had favoured a military solution over an inclusive and people-centric approach, driving the armed conflict and radicalizing more young people.
However, she said civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens consulted in the course of the research indicated that they believed an inclusive dialogue that leaves 'no conflict party and stakeholder behind' would put an end to the current crisis.
She said the independent VNR of SDG 16+ carried out by Women in Alternative Action (WAA) and GPPAC provided a civil society perspective of Cameroon's progress towards creating a peaceful, just and inclusive society.
She said this was to complement the official VNR submitted by government of Cameroon to the UN.
Madam Miletic said the study found that very little progress had been made in implementing and achieving SDG16+ in Cameroon.
"Many women and girls still suffer from the consequences of exclusionary policies and institutional violence."
According to the survey undertaken as part of this study, 42.4 per cent of the respondents were of the opinion that sexually assaulted persons do not have access to justice.
The study findings indicated that involvement of civil society in the implementation of the SDGs in Cameroon was also limited; "and the space for civil society is "restricted and constrained".
It said this limited the scope of them engaging or collaborating with the government in its implementation of the 2030 agenda.
It said Cameroon's legal framework remained weak due to its conflict with customary law and cultural practices, and challenged by strong leaders with tribal and political affiliations who violate the laws with impunity.
It said overall, a combination of political, socio-economic and institutional factors had slowed down the effective implementation of SDG16+ in Cameroon.
It recommended that military operations should be suspended and the Government of Cameroon should initiate inclusive talks with the local populations affected by the conflict, and leaders of the Anglophone armed and political movements.
It said to enhance the dialogue and make it sustainable, the Government of Cameroon could consider involving an international mediator accepted by all parties.
It also recommended the establishment a national action plan by the Government of Cameroon for an inclusive and democratic dialogue involving all the conflict parties with the assistance of a trusted internal or external mediator for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflicts.
It urged the Government of Cameroon to provide a protective and secure environment for CSOs working in crisis areas and conflict zones.
"It should ensure a meaningful, inclusive coordination and partnership with CSOs and effectively involve a broad range of CSOs from the start in the elaboration of development strategies or their monitoring, for example their participation in the VNR process."
It said there was a degree of partnership with CSOs in some government programs, but when it comes to the area of peace, justice, inclusion and conflict resolution, CSOs in Cameroon, including churches and their leaders face hard challenges trying to be directly involved.
Mrs Levinia Addae-Mensah, Programme Director/Deputy Executive Director, WANEP, said leaning on the "Leave no one behind" principle with focus on the SDG Goal 16, WANEP and the GPPAC undertook a shadow assessment on the implementation of the SDGs, which focused on the operationalization of Goal 5 and 16 at the local level in Ghana.
She hailed the Government of Ghana for taking the bold step to undergo VNR process, which seeks to review the level of progress in the implementation of the SDGs.