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This research is based on the role played by the Norwagant Refugee Council (NRC), The Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) And Plan International Cameroon In the protection of human rights in Cameroon. The research work have as main objective is out to examine what these nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are doing as far as human rights protection and promotion in Cameroon is concerned. This was done by exploring the fact that these organizations operate under certain international, regional and national legal guarantees or safeguards. These organizations used both the promotional and protective measures of human rights protection. Their impact is felt in areas of advocacy, human rights education, humanitarian aid, watchdog, promotion of good governance. NRC, CHRDA and Plan Cameroon still encounter a lot of difficulties due to state interference and influence, harassment, intimidation. The research hypothesized that these organizations are inhibited in effectively preserving human rights. Primary source of data was gotten through interviews with some civil society human rights activist and secondary data was collected by viewing various documents, books, reports, articles and internet sources concerning the role these organizations have played in preserving human rights. The research employs mainly the qualitative approach of data collection methods. The research found out that the idea and practice of human rights in Cameroon is influenced by state regulations, interference and restrictions which has jeopardized the effectiveness of civil society organizations in carrying out their traditional function which is the preservation of human rights. They have however faced challenges such as government interference and restrictions, limited finance and funding, the socio-political crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon and the emergence of the COVID 19 pandemics. This research therefore recommends that these challenges be curb to help these organizations realized their full objective of preserving, protecting and promoting human rights.



Background of the Study.

The existing gap between human rights norms and the enforcement of those norms provides spaces for civil society organizations (human rights non- governmental organizations NGOs)[1] to operate for the protection of human rights. Changes associated with globalization have strengthened the role of human rights NGOs and today, as never before. It is of generally acknowledged that development is impossible in the absence of true democracy, respect for human rights, peace and good governance[2]. Over the past thirty years, the world has witnessed a rapid change in all aspects of life; in technology, communication, economic and political systems, community development concepts and approaches. Globalization has been the conduct of such rapid change. The globalization dynamics have made the world interconnected as one body by which if one part is aching, the rest of the body feels the pain. This can be seen and felt with a little reflection on some current global issues such as poverty, terrorism, massive immigration, environmental problems, armed conflicts and wars and transmitted diseases…[3]

The concept of Human Rights widely spread around the world following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)[4]. International Organizations, Governments, Non-Governmental Organizations and Associations have undertaken the task to work on and protect Human Rights. The protection of Human Rights is not only the duty of national governments but also the desire of the various non-governmental organizations and the civil society’s at large. Additionally, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) work with the essential aim of protecting Human Rights. The concept of National Human Rights Institutions gained High international Recognition after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. During the second half of the twentieth century, civil society organizations and international bodies took renewed interest in promoting equity and harmony in society by protecting the basic civil, political, economic, social, and environmental rights of all people. For them, human progress can only be attained if the civil and political rights of individuals and groups are established and protected[5].

The effective protection of human rights always requires a good knowledge of the human rights conditions and applicable legal principles.[6] CSOs consistently monitor human rights situations in particular countries all over the world (the latter is applied to transnational NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International). They also monitor whether states comply with their obligations under human rights law. In other words, they act as “watchdogs” and provide an independent overview and assessment of whether and how human rights are ensured. Such monitoring helps to collect data about human rights situations at the national and international level and highlight any problems. CSOs/NGOs are well known for their role in gathering information with respect to the abuse of human rights and freedoms. They gather information from various sources: for example, from human rights victims, witnesses, other human rights NGOs, newspapers, in examining injuries and physical evidence, observing trials, and demonstrations.

Development will undoubtedly falter if people are not liberated from poverty, provided with basic education, health, safety, a clean and protected environment, and empowered to represent and speak for themselves—all alienable human rights. The Teheran Proclamation of 1968 asserted that “since human rights and fundamental freedoms are indivisible, the full realization of civil and political rights without the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is impossible.” Today, the perception that social and economic rights are an important component of the human rights array is widespread. This perception is vigorously espoused by civil society and its constituent—NGOs, both of which can play an effective role in promoting and protecting human rights in societies, especially where democracy is going through a turbulent period of consolidation.[7]

The activities of civil society organizations (NGOs) are generally recognized as an important element not only in the initial establishment of a genuine democracy but also in ensuring that, once achieved, it remains healthy and flourishing[8]. The contribution which such organizations make is often political in the broader and non-party sense but it is also manifested in their pursuit of a vast array of interests – such as culture, recreation, sport and social and humanitarian assistance, to say nothing of the rights of those at work and the simple personal fulfillment of those who belong to the bodies concerned that underpin the vitality of civil society. However, the essential role played by non-governmental organizations, although not open to question, is not one that is appreciated by all States at all times, not least because it does entail an unambiguous commitment to democracy. Nonetheless realizing and sustaining such a commitment is an objective of paramount importance for global and regional organizations such as the United Nations, the African Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the organization of American States and it is thus not surprising that provisions guaranteeing and promoting the rights of non-governmental organizations have readily found a place in many of the instruments adopted by all these bodies[9]

The principal basis for securing the position of non-governmental organizations rests upon the guarantee of freedom of association but there are also a limited number of instruments directed specifically to such organizations and the latter are also able to rely upon other human rights guarantees that have a particular bearing on the pursuit of their activities[10]. The novelty supported in this work suggests that in order to define the level of protection of freedom of association in accordance to international documents and domestic legislative acts, the status of civil society which consists of various social entities should be assessed first of all. In this regard, respective statutory acts accepted by these organizations ensure wide use of the right to freedom of association. Universal and European documents on human rights includes all guaranties for freedom of association. Namely, these documents are accepted as standards for the legal status of a person. There are numerous sources of international laws which define the standards concerning associations established for specific purposes based on individual membership. [11]

Human rights activists and organizations have proliferated all over the world in the past few decades. They serve as the voice for the oppressed and the underprivileged, organizing them, taking collective action on their behalf, and fighting for their rights. These organizations empathize with the downtrodden and occupy the roles of advocate and facilitator in their quest for greater empowerment[12]. In Cameroon, the intensification of human rights advocacy has taken place for two main reasons: (a) the expansion of human rights issues in a society that has faced one crisis after another in political, social, and economic spheres; and (b) the gradual emergence of a powerful and effective civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This study will attempt to highlight some of the key human rights issues relating to social and economic development in Cameroon, explore the roles of civil society and NGOs in promoting and safeguarding them through various programs and strategies, and identify some of the contemporary challenges they face.

The roots of civil society in Cameroon in the 1990s are many and can be appreciated under economic, social and political rubrics. The civil society in Cameroon became quite vocal in the 1990s and was bent on “opening and expanding the political space”[13]. To that effect various groups and organizations and even personalities that thirsted for freedom, justice, good governance against the totalitarian regime snowballed into civil society. Cameroon’s legislation on associational life is regulated and controlled through legal instruments having drawback clauses intended to maintain a firm grip on associational life (Law No. 90/053, Law No. 99/Law No. 90/053, Law No. 99/014). The legal instruments confer on the groups a legal personality enabling them to act in their own name(s) within the ambit of the law as artificial persons separate from their founders (Salomon v. Salomon 1897). It is in affirming its attachment to fundamental freedoms contained in the universal declaration of human rights and other regional and international human rights instruments that the Cameroonian Constitution guarantees freedom of association as is the case with other freedoms (Republic of Cameroon 1990)

The Constitution of Cameroon[14], reflecting the people’s commitment to safeguard human rights, is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Constitution pledges eighteen fundamental civil and political rights, including equality before law, right to life and personal liberty, safeguards as to arrest and detention, freedom of assembly, freedom of occupation, protection in respect of trial and punishment, rights to property, etc.[15] In addition, the Constitution also promises to safeguard certain social and economic rights for specific segments of the population and social sectors. Above all, the Constitution guarantees the freedom of association and assembly which is fundamental as far as civil society and the protection of Human Rights is concerned. Cameroon has buttressed her intentions to guarantee the freedom of Association to Civil Society by enacting the Law on Freedom of Association.[16]

In Cameroon, the challenge of civil society organizations has been to create awareness in citizens that will encourage them to take responsibility for their individual and collective destiny[17]. Unfortunately, the liberties of her citizens as found in the constitution have remained so far a dead letter. Civil society is fractured and the flavor of its vibrancy has gone soured. In any ordinary sense, the civil society deals with day-to-day operations of livelihood. One can talk of civil society when it has an impact on the society, if not it should be left out.

1.3 Statement of the Problem

1.4 Research Question

1.4.1 Main Research Question

How effective is The NRC, CHRDA, Plan Cameroon Human Rights in Cameroon?

1.4.2 Specific Questions

  • What are the legal guarantees for the existences CSO/NGOS in the international, regional and national level?
  • How does the NRC, CHRDA and PLAN Cameroon protects human rights in Cameroon?
  • What are the challenges faced by these organization in the protection of Human Rights in Cameroon?

Further Reading; Law project topics with Materials

Law n°2020/009 of 20 July 2020 to amend and supplement some provisions of law no. 90/53 of 19 December 1990 relating to freedom of association

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