Exploring the Part International Stakeholders, Civil Society and Faith-based Organisations can Play in the Peace and Development of Cameroon

Sustainable Peace and Development in Cameroon


For decades, “Cameroon has been widely praised for its ability to maintain the stable, and peaceful coexistence of its numerous cultural, ethnic and religious groups – it has been called a bastion of stability” (UNHCR, 2013, cited in MacGrew, 2016, p. 6), notable when compared to the numerous instability and conflictual nature of several neighbouring countries such as the Central African Republic, Chad and Nigeria. However, this image has recently been seriously threatened with the emergence and littering of several violent conflicts and Crises around the national territory such as the Boko Haram war activities in the Far-North Region since 2013, the now over six years long armed conflict in the North-West and South-West Regions, the 2013 Central African Republic Refugee Crisis in the East Region and the Post-October 2018 Presidential elections crisis. The humanitarian, material and psychological consequences of these conflicts and crises have been highly devastating

Furthermore, a vivid observation of Cameroon’s micro-level conflict landscape also reveals that, the Country has been affected, in the last few years, by local conflicts and crises such as conflict over resources, climate change-induced conflict, farmer-herder conflict, ethnic conflict, IDPs-host community conflict, refugee-host population conflict etc. All these have also combined “to cause great insecurity on many fronts, challenging vulnerable communities such as women, children, and the poor” (UNOCHA, 2015 cited in MacGrew, 2016, p. 1). Consequently, “in this atmosphere of insecurity (physical, food, hygiene, and health), sexual and gender‑based violence is prevalent and social cohesion between various groups is threatened” (ibid), further complicating the problematic of national unity and integration.

Many peace efforts have certainly been carried out by the government, diplomatic, international development partners and civil society actors; However, these have not succeeded in transforming Cameroon’s current problematic peace and security landscape into opportunities for sustainable peace and development. Hence the purpose of this article is to explore the part that could be played by diplomatic and international development partners in the peace and development of Cameroon with key community actors such as civil society and religious communities at the centre.

Exploring the Part that Could be Played by Diplomatic and International Development Partners with Civil society and Faith-based Organisations at the Centre

Within international relations and international development, the term civil society is often interpreted as non-governmental and non-profit. And sometimes, Western framework of the meaning of civil society is exclusionary of certain other groups such as religious and faith-based communities. Perhaps, part of the reason why the peace initiatives in Cameroon have so far been ineffective could be that in peacebuilding efforts, governments and their international development partners tend to focus so much on Track I diplomacy and top-down elitist approaches at the expense of multi-track diplomatic approaches especially with the increasing complexity of today’s conflicts. As a result, they tend to forget an important question: What does civil society, (including religious leaders and faith-based communities) play altogether in peacebuilding processes? To what extent does their interest and voices ever get considered in peacebuilding processes? With the current peace process in Cameroon at crossroads, it is more important than ever that these voices are heard and their spaces for active and meaningful participation be amplified. That is, the voices of those most involved in peacebuilding and conflict mitigation activities at the local level – civil society organisations and religious communities. Together with traditional authorities and community leaders, they are also the ones closest to the most conflict affected citizens such as vulnerable youths, women and their children, the elderly, the disabled and IDPs.

Reflecting concern over the above, it becomes necessary to begin by interrogating how diplomatic and international development partners define civil society and faith-based organisations in their policy and practice and whether they consider this definition to be the same across different socio-political and cultural contexts (such as in Cameroon). On top of this, lies another key issue. should diplomatic and international development partners seriously engage in local peace deals with civil society organisations and religious communities? Furthermore, in Cameroon, effective decentralisation is seen as a key political and strategic policy mechanism through which local democracy, peace and sustainable local development can be assured, with civil society and religious authorities playing key roles at the local level. It is therefore relevant to cross-examine how the work of diplomatic and international development partners contribute to these efforts. Also, considering the special role played by women in peace and development processes at the grassroots level, there are women-focus local civil society organisations and faith-based groups that are doing tremendous peacebuilding, local development and advocacy works that are actually not adequately recognised and acknowledged. These women-focus community-based organisations are also seen as working or partnering with international actors.  For example, it is generally said that women and especially Christian women are key actors of peace and sustainable development processes in Cameroon. With this it could be necessary to ascertain the views of diplomatic and international development partners on this category of key local peace and development agents and the extent to which they partner with community and faith-based women groups.  In addition, in most cases, national constitutions and policy instruments such as in Cameroon, contain important provisions for the inclusion and empowerment of civil society and disadvantaged groups. However, the problem usually lies at the level of implementation. What do diplomatic and international development partners do to facilitate and ensure effective implementation as they collaborate with the Government?

Other fundamental questions to be addressed in such an exploration are:

  1. What are the objectives of the foreign policies of diplomatic and international development partners, related to the peace and development of Cameroon and what is the role they expect civil society and religious-based organisations to meaningfully play in this policy and practice domain?
  2. What are some of the mechanisms put in place by diplomatic and international development partners in order to involve and support religious communities in their peacebuilding efforts in Cameroon?
  3. As diplomatic and development partners work for peace in Cameroon with civil society and religious communities (if applicable) how do they ensure local accountability and ownership for the sustainability of peace and development initiatives?
  4. How can diplomatic and international development partners better accompany civil society and faith-based organisations in their peace and development efforts?

Conclusion and Policy Directions

What has come out clearly in this paper is that while the meaningful inclusion of civil society actors and religious communities or again faith-based organisations is critical, what is certainly needed is for the government, diplomatic and international development partners to effectively collaborate with civil society and faith-based organisations in peace and development processes. Diplomatic and international development partners should look for ways and means to increase the ‘restricted space’ of civil society and religious communities’ action and enable their meaningful participation as key actors in peace and development process at the local level. The fact remains that, one cannot talk about having social cohesion, sustainable peace and sustainable development without talking about the meaningful inclusion of civil society and religious communities. Research has consistently shown that the inclusion of civil society, including religious authorities, women and youth-led civil-society organisations renders peace and development processes more effective and sustainable. Hence, it is hoped that Cameroon’s diplomatic and international development partners would be inspired by the issues raised in this write-up and take appropriate actions to ensure the sustainability of peace and development processes in local communities and the nation while considering the critical place of primacy of civil society and faith-based organisations at the local level.



McGrew, L. (2016) Social Cohesion Analysis: Cameroon. Catholic Relief Services. October2016.  Available at : https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/cameroon/assessment/social-cohesion-analysis-cameroon-october-2016?_gl=1*14nwtaq*_ga*MTk1NzcwNTEzOS4xNjI4Mzc2MjQ2*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY4NDI4NDU2Mi41MS4wLjE2ODQyODQ1NjIuNjAuMC4w (Access date: 10 May 2023).

UNHCR (2013) Submission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Compilation Report for the 16th Universal Periodic Review: Cameroon. 22 April – 3 May 2013. available at: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/507525932.pdf, p.1

UNOCHA (2015) aperçu Des besoins Humanitaires 2016. UNOCHA December 2015, page 7. available at http://reliefweb.int/report/cameroon/cameroun-aper-u-des-besoins-humanitaires-2016-d-cembre-2015

William Hermann ARREY (Ph.D)
William Hermann ARREY (Ph.D)
Senior Fellow in Peace & Security | + posts

Dr. William Hermann Arrey is the Senior Fellow in Peace & Security at the Nkafu Policy Institute and Advisor to the Board. He is also currently the Head of the Department of Peace and Development Studies at the Protestant University in Cameroon based in Yaoundé


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

fifteen − 10 =