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Yaoundé: Large mobilisation for the Right to the City leading the way towards the right to housing

The fourth edition of the Triennial of Inhabitants took place from 26 to 28 November 2014 in Yaoundé on the theme “Make the Right to the City a prerequisite to the right to adequate housing ”. It was successful on all fronts, mobilising nearly 800 participants who came from 91 municipalities, and from towns and villages from the 10 regions of Cameroon. It marked the transition to the right approach, characterised by the organisation of resistance movements, social mobilisation, democratic and citizen control of the city and the implementation of alternatives to neoliberal urban policies.

The three-pronged forum: agreement on a vision of the city based on the ESCR

The three-pronged forum came together around platforms of exchange with State, civil society and the private sector, namely representatives from decentralised territorial collectivities as well as forced evictions victims’ groups, to review the implementation of the 12 proposals for social housing submitted to the government in November 2010 in Maroua and to open debates on the Right to the City in Cameroon.

In addition to the speech of circumstance, the proceedings were opened up by a film reflecting on 17 years of the RNHC, followed by an inaugural round table on the Right to the City and its place in urban policies. Hosted by Jules Dumas Nguebou, president of the Triennial initiative committee and Francophone Africa IAI regional coordinator, participants included: Professor Isaac Tamba, Director of the Research Centre for Sustainable Development in Africa and Technical Advisor of the Minister for the Economy, Planning and Territory Management; Professor Chimie Mébu, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Yaoundé 2, Soa; and Dr. Hillaire Kamga, Director of the CEFODEP and Founder of Cameroon New Human Rights. Not to mention the rich exchanges with representatives from the many private and public institutions who were among the participants.

Preceded by a film with no comment on people's neighborhoods and their realities, this round table allowed a diagnostic-analysis of the Right to the City and also an involvement in the challenges, the strategies and the debates surrounding its implementation in national public policies. The key points of this important three-part inaugural discussion are the need for a vision of the city based on the ESCR (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), transformed into policies, which are then developed into strategies, then into three-actor public, private and social programmes or alternatives - necessary requirements to achieve the right to housing.

New tools for advocacy and struggles of the inhabitants

The day was followed by the launch of the Competition for Alternatives Housing in Cameroon to which 150 of the 800 organisations present responded. Around twenty innovative projects were selected to serve as a basis for the new work plan of the RNHC as well as the National Coalition of the Organisations of Civil Society on Habitat created in October 2014 as part of the World Zero Evictions Days in Cameroon, consolidated during this part of the forum.

Some other highlights were the launch of the National Observatory of social housing, under the guidance of Flaubert Djateng of ZENU Network; a presentation of the International Tribunal of Evictions; published works with the Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH); as well as the World Map of Urban Habitat by Pascale Thys of Habitat and Participation.

Alternatives for adequately housing 10,000,000 inhabitants in Cameroon

The second day, on the other hand, was dedicated to thematic sessions on the social housing crisis in Cameroon and the alternatives for lodging and adequately housing 10,000,000 inhabitants on the horizon for 2035; the property, the financial and estate agent; people's neighborhoods under attack by commercial interests; why and how the resistance should be organised and strengthened; the role of civil society in the achievement of the Right to the City and adequate housing; the various experiences for a favourable outcome to the Right to the City; the final press conference devoted to the presentation of the results of the competition; the Habitat world prize for which ASSOAL was a finalist; and the reading of the memorandum as well as the petition that will be submitted to the authorities.

As part of a ceremony chaired once again by the mayor of the Yaoundé 1 municipality, the host of this edition of the Triennial, ministerial representatives such as those in charge of habitat and urban development; private, semi-public and social institutions from the field; as well as victims’ groups and experts from various backgrounds, took part in exchanges that helped to construct the memorandum adopted at the end of the forum.

RNHC & Coalition for social housing - resurgence of support for the right approach, an alternative to neoliberal urban policies

One of the three days of the forum saw the launch of the 2015-2018 planning process. Above all, it led to the structure of the Coalition for social housing and the reelection of all of the governing authorities of the RNHC, with the election of a new team led by Daniel Nonze who was elected to the post of National Executive Secretary for a three-year term.

The Triennial of Inhabitants, Yaoundé 2014, marked the transition from the current approach based on the proposal of complementary contributions to the construction of the new right approach, characterised by the organisation of protests; social mobilisation; democratic and citizen control of the city; and the implementation of alternatives to neoliberal urban policies. It promoted a philosophy and principles of the Right to the City leading the way towards the right to adequate housing and above all, launched a plan to implement strategies of respect, of protection and of support for the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing. In particular, it allowed the formulation of an urban trajectory in the form of a memorandum with the view to an urban governance respectful of rights that will transform spontaneous settlements as well as villages. In short, civil society has strengthened its advocacy for social housing in Cameroon. Such was the Triennial 2014 and until 2017 in Douala for the 5th edition.

Dominique Essono

Deputy Executive Secretary of the RNHC



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