Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Cameroon
Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Cameroon is entering its sixth year with renewed vigor in its campaign for the responsible management of Cameroon’s subsoil resources. The coalition was launched in 2005 during a regional PWYP workshop in Yaoundé. After an enthusiastic start, PWYP Cameroon worked hard to meet the challenges that working as a coalition can bring. Eliminating interpersonal conflicts, encouraging information sharing and establishing a plan of action based on consensus were all part of this learning process. With the help of different capacity building programs and with support from the PWYP Africa Coordinator, the coalition was able to integrate the various structures, expertise and priorities of different members, without undermining their mandate or identity as individual organisations.
Drawing from past lessons, the Cameroonian coalition has been mindful of the need for a series of documents, including a procedural handbook and a charter to which members can refer in cases of uncertainty. Ten civil society organisations make up Cameroon’s PWYP coalition. They are all represented in the coalition’s General Assembly, while the executive coordination body is made up of three organisations and headed by PWYP Cameroon’s technical secretary. The Cameroonian coalition joined the African regional push for natural resource revenue transparency following the launch of PWYP Congo in 2003 and PWYP Nigeria in 2004. There are now twenty PWYP national coalitions across Africa.
Civil society organisations in Cameroon have long struggled to make their voices heard on the subject of natural resource management. Some progress was made at the turn of the century following civil society’s mobilisation around the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. During this time, Cameroonian organisations familiarised themselves with the oil sector and expressed concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the pipeline project, thereby introducing public debate on a subject once considered taboo. Despite this foray into the issue, a framework conducive to dialogue on the delicate topic of oil revenues and benefits for local citizens was needed.
In 2005, during the final phase of negotiating the reduction of its national debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government of Cameroon decided to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in the hope of securing the goodwill of its international donors. Civil society enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity afforded by this move, as the EITI makes it a fundamental requirement that civil society be involved in its implementation. In this sense, Cameroon’s membership of the EITI was a pivotal moment in the creation of PWYP Cameroon. The question of who should represent civil society in the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) was soon raised. The government appointed several civil society representatives to serve on the MSG, but PWYP Cameroon was able to successfully campaign for a more credible and independent process and the right of civil society to choose its own representatives on the MSG. Though the government-appointed civil society representatives remained, seven additional members from the PWYP Cameroon coalition were also selected to serve on the MSG (out of 13 civil society representatives in total).
Cameroon’s first EITI report was published in 2006 (covering data for 2001-2004) and its second report was published in 2007 (covering data for 2005). Preparations for the third report commenced in 2008 but extensive delays resulted in this report only being published in September 2010 (covering data for 2006-2008). Following PWYP Cameroon’s efforts, the mining sector was included for the first time in this latest report. Together with the budget monitoring civil society platform Dynamique Citoyenne, coalition members have created a system to monitor mining royalties. According to the Cameroonian mining code, 10 percent of mining revenues are to benefit local communities while 15 percent are set aside for communes and municipalities. For this reason, PWYP has invested a lot of effort in capacity building for local communities and continues to organise public debates on the mining sector in Cameroon.
A major challenge is that EITI reports are highly technical and therefore remain inaccessible to the general public. Furthermore, since the figures are aggregated, a more detailed analysis on a company-specific basis is not possible. These are some of the issues which PWYP Cameroon has highlighted in a series of recommendations on improving the EITI in Cameroon. The coalition has called for the EITI to be grounded in national law, as is the case in Nigeria and Liberia. The coalition argues that without a legal footing companies can refuse to disclose their figures without any risk of sanction. Enshrining the EITI into national law would also ensure greater national ownership over the EITI and more regular publication of EITI reports. The coalition has pushed for EITI reports to be published annually and cover recent data so that citizens can follow the financial flows in a meaningful way and use this information to hold the government to account for expenditures. PWYP Cameroon has also raised important questions about the credibility of government and company accounts which, according to the EITI requirements, should be the subject of an independent audit applying international standards.
The EITI International Board reviewed the status of Cameroon in October 2010 following the completion of Validation, the EITI’s quality assurance review, and determined that Cameroon is a Candidate country that is ‘close to compliance’. The Board granted Cameroon 6 months (until April 19, 2011) to undertake the remedial actions necessary to achieve compliance.
Despite the challenges that remain, the coalition believes that EITI implementation in Cameroon has already sparked important discussions about the management of Cameroon’s natural resource assets and about the country’s public accounts. However, there is huge scope for widening the debate if the EITI can go beyond the currently limited circle of engaged individuals and be made more accessible to the general public, for example by translating documents into local languages and increasing dissemination at the local level. Such initiatives are crucial for the sustainability of the EITI and to build ownership among the citizenry. To this end, PWYP Cameroon has created and disseminated posters which illustrate the nature and aims of EITI in cartoon format. The coalition has also published two issues of its new magazine Industries Extractives: En Toute Transparence. This publication, with articles in French and English as well as maps and interviews, serves as a space for discussion and information on the extractive industries in Cameroon.
PWYP Cameroon has held various outreach workshops for journalists and local communities affected by the recent discovery of oil fields and on-shore mining. For example, last July, PWYP Cameroon organised an event in Yaoundé with journalists, explaining the aims and objectives of EITI, the PWYP campaign and Cameroon’s progress with EITI implementation. The workshop closed with a decision to create a network of journalists dedicated to the promotion of transparency and the responsible management of the extractive industries. Other notable events organised by the coalition include a workshop for local council authorities in a mining area and a discussion with Parliamentarians on the challenges of achieving transparency in the extractive industries in Cameroon.
PWYP Cameroon is committed to pushing ahead with its efforts to remain effective and meaningful even though it faces an atmosphere that is often uncertain for civil society activists. While the Cameroonian government officially abolished censorship in 1996, conditions for the full exercise of freedom of speech remain difficult1. Despite the considerable obstacles ahead, the coalition’s achievements to date demonstrate a strong will within Cameroonian civil society to advocate for greater transparency in the extractive sector, and this is further reflected in the increasing number of actors – including journalists – which support PWYP Cameroon’s campaign. PWYP Cameroon is determined to move ahead with its campaign and present a united voice for change.
The PWYP international team thanks Bernard Dongmo (PWYP Cameroon), Axel Müller (National Service of Justice and Peace, National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon), Marie-Ange Kalenga (former PWYP Africa Coordinator 2008-2010), Valéry Nodem (Réseau de Lutte contre la Faim – RELUFA) and Ernest Nkolo Ayissi (Président Délégué du groupe d’appui à la Bonne Gouvernance et de Défense des droits de l’Homme AGAGES Management Consultants) who kindly agreed to be interviewed for this article.
View the Coalition’s website: www.publishwhatyoupay.cm
Download a pdf version of this Spotlight here.
1 Cameroon: Government and Political Conditions, U.S State Department, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26431.htm