Relationships with Government

The cooperation and support of government are key for the successful operation of NGOs and for the success of many of their projects, but our research showed that the current state of NGO-government relationships leaves much to be desired. To improve the situation, we offer these suggestions.

Reduce Competition and Suspicion between NGOs and the State Although relationships are rarely hostile, environmental NGOs and the Cameroonian state too often hold one another at arm’s length and view one another with suspicion. Cooperation between NGOs and the state should thus not be considered a weakness by either party, but an opportunity to work together to protect the environment. Cooperation must be based not on domination and control, but on mutual respect and the acknowledgment that environmental protection can be better achieved by working together. Cooperation with the national government is especially important because the government’s presence and influence encompasses the entire country, yielding the possibility of producing results with national impact. No NGO can accomplish that alone. Environmental NGOs thus need to take the risk of collaborating with government agencies rather than isolating themselves and their activities from those of the state. This does not mean that NGOs and government must have exactly the same objectives, but it does mean working to identify areas of common interests and forging good working relationships.

Especially promising domains for cooperation include soil, forest, and water management and environmental education. NGOs and government could cooperate in conducting and sharing research results, enforcing environmental regulations, conducting environmental impact assessments, and designing macro-level policies and projects. NGOs can ensure that impact assessments for major projects are effectively conducted, participate in them, and monitor them afterward to ensure that projects are executed in accordance with the results of the assessment. The government and NGOs can also work together to develop new laws and revise existing ones and to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles to NGO work and effective NGO-government cooperation. In some cases, of course, NGOs may have to make a strong lobbying effort to bring the state along or be flexible in their approach.

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