Douala Cameroon (CNA) Africa is currently witnessing several crises that have hit the continent, leaving especially less developed countries at the mercy of fate. Food security, climate change, human security challenges, unstable economies, sometimes spearheaded by longevity in power, military coups among others, have left many in desolation. Efforts made through the IMF, World Bank, AfDB, and other donors, occasionally do not reach the final beneficiaries either because those in charge have embezzled funds or the implementing teams do not know the priority of the receiving communities.
This is the reason why Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, Associations, and other rights groups are demanding their inclusion in every development project because they are close to the people and know their exact problems.
Against this backdrop, African Civil Society Organizations will join their counterparts for brainstorming during the 4th Finance in Common Summit, FiCS, in Cartagena, Colombia between September 4-6, 2023. They are converging on Cartagena with a strong message- Public Development Banks must see them as development partners if they want to ensure that their projects and policies achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
In West Africa, the Network of National NGO Platforms, REPAOC, has been fighting for rights and amelioration of living conditions of communities, especially those marginalized. But activities of the nearly 1000 NGOs are often met with challenges ranging from administrative, financial, and natural causes.
The Regional Coordinator of REPOAC, Julien Comlan Agbessi, said they are not only faced with the challenge of limited access to Public Development Banks’ projects but also the long arm of the government, “There are many factors such as institutional, with the restriction of the civic space by the government. For some time now, human rights NGOs who play an advocacy role for the amelioration of human rights, are wrongly accused by the state which uses every means to reduce their visibility,” Comlan noted.
Many of such human rights NGOs fall victim and are either banned or have their activities restricted because the governments see them as opposition parties in disguise, “… that is restrictive measures, they follow them up and at times they accuse them of being an opposition party and they sometimes ask who do these NGOs work for? what are their sources of income? Why are they monitoring us?…the governments have forgotten that these NGOs work to give them proposals for the amelioration of governance in every sector,” the REPAOC representative said, noting that their existence in the 15 ECOWAS countries is to accompany the governments and not competitors, “When we talk of human rights, it touches many aspects of the society, such as social, economy, environment, religion, politics, and different aspects…NGOS are here to call the attention of government on the gaps and limitations of governance and if this is absent, it could lead to frustration of the population because there is nobody to explain to them these issues.” He told Cameroon News Agency in an interview.
The situation of REPAOC members
The political will to resolve issues in West Africa is lacking and this has a consequence on social coherence. Unemployment has become huge in West Africa leading to massive exodus from villages to cities and to the West for greener pastures, Julien Comlan lamented. “We have a problem of Immigration, with these, we see the consequences of the dangers of the seas where our youths lose their lives, are treated inhumanely, among others…when NGOs denounce these, the state is supposed to pay attention to all of them and act, but they do nothing about it.” Comlan lamented.
Also, the COVID-19 pandemic caused huge damage to the developmental projects initiated earlier. The financial crisis and the effects of climate change have also caused extreme climatic conditions, having consequences on human activities, and the security situation in the Sahel caused by the Libyan crisis in 2011 that penetrated into other West African countries. Comlan noted that this has been one of the major issues affecting their activities.
Collaboration with Public Development Banks, PDB
Asked whether they have had a collaboration with PDB, the Regional Coordinator of REPOAC said, “We have engaged in dialogue with the banks, it is now that we are into talks with them. We appreciate the paradigm shift in the financing of NGOs with the Finance in Common Summit that wants to see that, NGOs and CSOs are partners in the implementation of development projects with PDB and private sectors…it is important to let the PDB understand that they have a category of partners that they have forgotten and these are the NGOs, who have this operational proximity with the communities…it is these NGOs who understand the wants and needs of the communities…”
Julien Comlan said that if the PDB works with them, they will achieve durable development “We will not embezzle their money, we do not embezzle, neither resources nor objectives…they should sign partnerships with us and compare our input with the projects they financed before” He assured.
Corruption is a vice to eliminate
Governments are traditional partners to NGOs in Africa, but communities continue to suffer despite having massive resources because of a lack of patriotism, corruption, and embezzlement among other malpractices. The Civil Society leader thinks that corruption must be eliminated if projects must see the light of day “Africans are hardworking people, it suffices just to give them the means to work and organize them, at our level, we will reinforce their capacities…poverty has persisted because any resources that comes up, they are kept in private pockets,”
Amid this, Comlan thinks that the 4th FiC Summit in Colombia will produce positive feedback on their existence- and within five years, he believes that the outcome will be enormous.
Source: Cameroon News Agency