By Sonwa Momo Berenice Kylian (Download Pdf Version)
Africa is a continent with a predominantly young population. The media and development experts around the world speak of it as a great wealth. Cameroon is one of those countries whose youth is the “driving force”. Lawn°2004/017of 22 July 2004 on the orientation of decentralisation in Cameroon, taken up by Law n°2019/024 of 24 December 2019 on the General Code of Decentralised Territorial Authorities, is quite explicit on the contribution of the population, and in particular young people, to their local development.
For the voice of these young people to have a large-scale impact, coordination is needed. In this respect, youth organisations (associations) are likely to provide relevant solutions. This is the case of PIJEDECA (Independent Youth Platform for Democracy and Active Citizenship), which has been working for nearly five (5) years in mobilising youth around social, economic, democracy, citizenship and human rights issues. The ADEV (Association of Development Actors), for its part, “has been working for more than three years with women and young people in Cameroon society. “
From the outset, it is necessary to indicate what an association is in order to identify its role and its challenges in local development. Article 2 of Law No. 90/053 of 19 December 1990 on the freedom of association in the Republic of Cameroon provides that “association is the agreement by which persons pool their knowledge or activities for a purpose other than sharing profits”. This shows that the association has a collective function and does not aim at individual interest. It is in this pooling of skills that youth associations can effectively contribute to the development of their Decentralized Territorial Authorities (CTD). For the Confederation of Youth Organisations (COJ), “”a voluntary association of natural or legal persons that contributes to the development by young people of their personal skills in order to help them become active, responsible and critical citizens within society”. ». These organisations must be supported by young people who are committed to the development of a community, a territory, without neglecting the great contribution of volunteering.
Several studies have been carried out on the contribution of young people to the development of their communities both in Cameroon and abroad. This is why it is important to specify the roles and issues of these youth associations in the commune of Yaoundé 4. In view of the above, what could be the roles and stakes of youth organisations in the development of Yaoundé 4? To answer this question is certainly to seek to establish a direct link between the civic commitment of these youth associations and their contribution to the development of Yaoundé 4.
Role of youth organisations in the civic participation of young people in their territory
It must be admitted that the contribution of these organised young people depends on their level of education and their relationship with the authorities and the population of their locality. It should therefore be noted that these youth organisations are divided into four categories according to the CJO (youth movements; specialised movements; youth services; coordinating organisations), each of which has a specific role to play. While it is clear that the CJO is a Belgian practice, the realities are different due to the level of development and the system of governance. However, the themes dealt with are for the most part similar to those addressed by youth organisations in Cameroon, and more particularly those in Yaoundé 4. These are employment; education and teaching; sustainable development; culture/media; sport/health; seeking international collaboration; dialogue at local and even national level; and citizen participation.
- Employment: Youth organisations are real training centres for young people on the relevance of their role in the development of each commune.
- Education and teaching: Youth organisations must raise awareness, mobilise and encourage young people to participate. Young people must be informed and trained on decentralisation and its implications.
- Sustainable development: Youth organisations are an important asset for planning to spatial planning, environmental protection to resource management, especially since they are the first beneficiaries of the measures taken and should participate in the development of every sector of the life of a community.
Culture/media: Informing young people about the life of the commune and the activities of the town hall is essential to ensure the participation of youth organisations. This involves training young people in civic attitudes, active participation and community management.
As youth organisations are youth development units, it is essential that they are constantly informed and trained on everything that concerns the life of the commune. It is right to question the method of informing young people by the council. These methods must be reviewed and adapted to the context of the population and involve youth organisations as transmitters of information to young people.
- Sport/Health: Youth organisations actively contribute to the promotion of sports activities by organising, for example, football matches, commonly known as “2-0”, which bring together many young people around sport.
- Seeking international collaboration:
- Dialogue at local or even national level:Youth organisations should lobby local politicians to defend the interests of young people by considering them as key actors in the development of the community and the country as a whole. The voice of young people must be heard as one voice carried by many to have a real impact. The elaboration of development plans, which is meant to be participatory, must be strongly influenced by the expectations of young people.
- Participation/citizenship:Law No. 2019/024 of 24 December 2019 on the General Code of Decentralised Local Authorities shows us the importance of citizen participation and especially the importance of youth participation. Decentralisation brings decision-making closer to the people, who are mainly young people who, if badly guided or supervised, will miss out on building their future.
Associative life and related activities allow young people to develop their talents, know-how, interpersonal skills and know-how. They allow young people to become truly involved and, more importantly, to question the problems that surround them and to propose concrete solutions that they can then implement. The projects carried out by these associations generally have a strong social impact. This is understandable, since young people experience these problems and are sometimes the most affected. They therefore propose precise and objectively achievable solutions. Because young people do not always benefit from vocational training leading to employment or self-employment, associative life enables them to develop the skills and aptitudes necessary for easier professional integration. In a context where most young people are involved in precarious and low-value or stigmatised activities (such as “call box”, “motorbike taxi”, street vending, itinerant laundry, etc.) which sometimes bring in more money than conventional jobs, other young people see them as transitional activities to pay for vocational training or to travel abroad. Youth organisations are therefore like catalysts that enable young people to use their energies to serve their communities.
If the roles of youth associations are of proven importance in terms of local development in Yaoundé 4, it is necessary to understand the stakes of such roles, which are beneficial to the dynamics of local youth, to the Decentralised Territorial Authorities itself and to the population as a whole, who are all beneficiaries.
The challenges of youth organisations in the elaboration of local development plans
This section deals with the tripartite relationship between the local government, the local population and the youth associations. It is a question of showing how these associations, by fulfilling their roles discussed above, manage to meet the needs of the population. Also, they contribute to facilitating the work of the authorities of the communities in order to offer better living conditions to the populations. This role is not only the responsibility of youth organisations, but also of the authorities in place, who have a duty to inform the population and the associations and to involve them in the process of drawing up development plans.
The role of youth organisations is therefore to bring the voice of young people so that it is heard and taken into account during the preparation of development plans in each commune.
As they make up more than 60% of the Cameroon population, the needs and concerns of young people require a great deal of attention and should therefore be listened to and addressed because the solutions to these problems are likely to contribute to development. This requires that young people be integrated not only into the management of their communities’ affairs, but also that they be brought together around a specific cause. Young people, through their associations, give impetus to a dynamic that is not always well supervised by the authorities, because they do not really use this dynamic as a real tool for development or decentralisation.
It is therefore necessary to:
- Create a platform for collaboration between youth organisations and the CTDs, within the framework of the law
- Initiate a process of sensitisation of youth organisations on their role in development.
Youth associations have an essential function in the development of a locality. This is what has been dealt with throughout this study of the commune of Yaoundé 4. The analysis was structured around two main points.
The first dealt with the roles of youth organisations in Cameroon through the various themes that are usually dealt with. Similarly, these associations work in a sustainable perspective thanks to the voluntary work of young people in the community with various skills and knowledge. They put together their potential to assess their living environment and present their grievances in a coordinated manner. Moreover, they sometimes take the initiative to solve many of these problems.
The second point shows how youth organisations, as coordinators and spokespersons of many of their problems, are a participatory solution to support territorial action. Therefore, they are at the heart of the development plans of their locality according to their sector of activity. Youth organisations should work closely with local councils to identify mechanisms to enhance youth participation. The participation of youth organisations promotes a better diagnosis of the problems linked to the commune and the priority projects that will lead to local development.
By highlighting these issues (MBALLA MEKONGO, 2016), the aim is to recall the essential role of youth associations in the development of their commune.
PIJEDECA. 2018. White paper on youth participation in the democratic governance of territories in Cameroon (2018 edition). SOGESIC-PRINT Sarl.
MBALLA MEKONGO Fernand Guevara “Les associations de développement à l’heure des objectifs du développement durable. Entre quête de visibilité, pouvoir et argent, et ripostes à la crise en contexte de renaissance’, Catholic University of Central Africa/ICY, 2016, pp. 1-20.
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