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News and Resources

Montrealers Share Best Practices in Cameroon

News and Resources
By Marco Monzon, Groupe CDH


In February 2009, I attended a workshop on municipal cooperation and partnership in Yaoundé, Cameroon with Suzanne Dion of the City of Montreal.  The workshop, hosted by Rooftops Canada’s partner CONGEH, a coalition of 30 housing and human settlements NGOs, was part of CONGEH’s response to forced evictions happening in Yaoundé and other urban centres in the country.
UN Habitat estimates that 2/3rds of urban Cameroonians live in precarious and under-serviced urban slums. The government is demolishing homes they say are dangerous or illegal. It argues that the evictions are necessary to improve the urban environment and protect people living in high-risk areas, such as on eroding hillsides, valleys and marsh lands. The government is not providing replacement shelter or helping people relocate to safer and healthier environments.
Urban modernization is an inevitable process, but the government must ensure that the needed resources are available to re-house people appropriately. Léon Guy Mfomou of CONGEH explained, “We are working to find solutions for the families affected by the forced evictions. We are also very aware that this can only be done with the participation of the state, municipalities, civil society and the private sector.”
The workshop deliberately brought together key housing and human settlement actors from all these sectors. Discussions were very animated and participants were keen to collaborate in the search for solutions to the shortage of affordable and adequate housing. Diverse on-the-ground experiences shared by civil society groups greatly enriched the discussions. They talked about their work in awareness-raising, popular education, advocacy and housing construction.
Suzanne and I described the affordable housing situation in Montreal and we outlined how multi-stakeholder partnerships have developed new housing and improved neighbourhoods. We explained who the main actors are, how we come together to discuss issues, and the great potential to solve difficult problems when political will and a spirit of collaboration are activated.   
Government representatives at the workshop were open to working with civil society. They also expressed the need for technical support. All of the actors are aware of the immense challenge and the urgent need to reduce the housing deficit in Cameroon. The workshop experience will be followed up to ensure the development of new partnerships so that communities affected by evictions have access to affordable, healthy and secure housing.