Accelerating the implementation of the Youth Peace and Security Agenda in Cameroon: A Step Towards Sustainable Peace and Development

Introduction

Cameroon has been marked by socio-political tensions and recurring conflicts that have left a deep humanitarian crisis in the affected regions and hampered development efforts in the country. These problems have particularly affected young people, who make up a sizable section of the population. Yet, their ability to bring about change and support peace and development remains largely unused.  In order to attain sustainable peace and development in the country, the implementation of the youth peace and security (YPS) agenda is very crucial. According to the AU, Youth, Peace and Security refers to “conscious actions and processes to protect young people from participation in, and the ill effects of, violent conflicts and insecurity, and to promote and support their contributions to peace efforts in conflict and post-conflict situations.” (1)

With the increased recognition that youths have a very important role to play in peace and security, the United Nations Security Council, in 2015, unanimously adopted a historic resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (2). This momentous resolution highlights five main pillars for action: participation, protection, prevention, partnership disengagement and reintegration. In 2018, the UNSC also adopted Resolution 2419, which calls for ways to increase the representation of young people when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, as well as Resolution 2535 in 2020.  In the same spirit, the African Union, in line with these resolutions and Article 17 of the AU Youth Charter (2006), adopted the Continental Framework for Youth Peace and Security (CFYPS) (3) and its ten-year implementation plan, to promote the involvement and active participation of young people in peacebuilding in Africa. Effective implementation of this agenda requires states to adopt National Action Plans (NAPs) which outline the steps they are taking to fulfil their commitments under these different frameworks. These NAPs should address the distinct requirements, realities and goals of each country. So far, only two African states have adopted NAPs on YPS; Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cameroon, Tunisia and Zimbabwe are in the process of developing theirs while Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, the Gambia and Uganda have all indicated a strong desire to follow suit (4). In view of this, our objective in this paper is to examine the current state of youth involvement in peacebuilding initiatives in Cameroon (I) and to propose strategies and approaches that can be used to fast-track the effective implementation of the YPS Agenda in Cameroon (II).  

  1. The current state of youth involvement in peacebuilding initiatives in Cameroon

In Cameroon, youths are considered as persons aged between 15- 35 years old. Given the nation’s present socio-political issues, youth involvement in peacebuilding initiatives has grown significantly in recent years. Among other things, they have played an important role in fostering dialogue, social cohesion, reconciliation, bridging generational gaps, educating the public about the effects of violence on communities, rallying support for peaceful coexistence and pushing for youth participation in peace and security-related decision-making processes. Youths also have a wealth of innovative ideas and solutions, as well as lived experiences, which can guide peace and security responses, if explored. These initiatives are especially run by youth-led and youth-focused groups that are committed to bringing about constructive change.

The government of Cameroon, in an effort to include youths in decision-making processes, adopted the national youth policy in 2006, which seeks to promote the involvement of young people in different domains, including peace and security. However, this policy lacks instruments for its systematic implementation (5).

Also, in 2009, the Head of State created the Cameroon National Youth Council which represents over 11,000 youth organizations in Cameroon (6). The council has been active in promoting youth engagement in decision-making and policy formulation across the country, especially in areas that concern peace and security.

In spite of these efforts, Cameroonian youths continue to encounter several challenges in their pursuit of meaningful involvement in decisions regarding peace and security. These include those highlighted by the UN Secretary General in his report on Youth Peace and Security, published in March 2020, notably; “structural barriers limiting the participation of young people and their capacity to influence decision-making; violations of their human rights; and insufficient investment in facilitating their inclusion, in particular through education” (7).

Additionally, young people in Cameroon lack sufficient financial resources to run their organizations, there is limited and ever-shrinking space for them in formal peacebuilding initiatives, youths lack capacity and skills, there exists a lack of political will from the government to involve youths in decision-making processes, as well as the existence of stigma and discrimination from older generations, etc. Tackling these challenges is a first step towards the implementation of YPS

Despite these challenges, there are numerous opportunities for young people to get involved in peacebuilding initiatives in Cameroon. These include; the growing realization by international, regional and national actors of the significance of youth participation, the expansion of youth-led organizations, and the possibility of using technology to promote cooperation and communication. These opportunities serve as a foundation for further collaboration aimed at promoting the implementation of YPS in Cameroon.

  1. Strategies for the effective implementation of the YPS Agenda in Cameroon

The YPS frameworks did not only call on states to acknowledge the role of youths in peace and security but to take concrete action to increase their effective participation in the process. Developing a NAP is important, but more importantly, developing strategies to effectively implement the plan. To effectively put into effect the YPS Agenda in Cameroon, the following strategies are essential for adoption by the government:

  • Tackling drivers of conflict such as unemployment and poverty. This can serve as a means to prevent young people’s involvement in conflicts, as it reduces their vulnerability to being recruited by extremist groups.
  • Policy reform is very important in implementing the YPS agenda in Cameroon. The government ought to prioritize the creation and enactment of policies that promote the involvement of young people in peacebuilding, especially those in conflict-affected regions. These policies must address specific needs and challenges that young people face, provide enough resources and support, and assure their meaningful participation in decision-making processes.
  • Strengthening youth-led and youth-focused organizations is an important step towards domesticating the Agenda in Cameroon. These organizations can become more effective in their work and contribute to the success of the YPS Agenda if they are provided financial and technical assistance, capacity building, and networking opportunities.
  • Also, cooperation and coordination among government institutions, civil society organizations, and youth-led initiatives is essential for the implementation of the YPS agenda in Cameroon. This provides fora for dialogue, exchange of information and joint planning which promote synergies and increase the overall impact of peacebuilding initiatives.
  • To ensure accountability, identify loopholes, and track progress in the implementation of the YPS agenda in Cameroon, a strong monitoring and evaluation system must be established. These assessments would serve to measure the impact of youth-focused peacebuilding programs and support evidence-based policy choices.
  • In as much as the bulk of responsibility in implementing the YPS agenda lies on the government, civil society organizations are largely championing the cause and have a great role to play. It is important,therefore, for CSOs to deepen their understanding of the different YPS frameworks, form coalitions and build relevant advocacy skills to amplify the agenda in Cameroon.

Conclusion

Youths are very instrumental in all aspects of peace and security including conflict prevention, management, resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and development. Localizing the YPS agenda in Cameroon is very critical for promoting sustainable peace and development in the country. In the face of the economic and socio-political crises in Cameroon, young people have proven beyond doubt that they can be instruments of positive change through their increased involvement in programs and initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and social cohesion, reconciliation, bridging generational gaps, capacity-building, and advocacy, amongst others. These initiatives are often perturbed by varied challenges. It is imperative, therefore, for all stakeholders to collaborate to create favourable conditions for young people to participate meaningfully in peacebuilding processes, as youths are agents of positive transformation and nation-building.  

Muriel M. Kinkoh
Research assistant, the Peace and Security division | + posts

Muriel Kinkoh is Research assistant at the Peace and Security division of the Nkafu Policy Institute. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was administrative and coordination intern at ILIAN Consulting Company Limited; supporting advocacy, peacebuilding and conflict resolution programming.

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