The implementation of the SDGs at the local level
Elaborated in 2017, the national contextualisation and prioritisation document of the Sustainable Development Goals is the reference tool that has marked out the contours of the implementation of the SDGs in Cameroon.
The decentralised territorial communities (DTCs) – a category to which the commune of Maroua I belongs – are among the main actors identified in this document to drive forward the implementation of the SDGs. The DTCs will play a major role in the structural transformation of the country, which was reaffirmed in the National Development Strategy 2020-2030 (NDS30).
One of the key considerations for the implementation of the NDS30 is to increase the share of resources transferred to the DTCs to at least 15 per cent of state revenue; this involves the responsibility of transferring investment operations and accelerating the establishment of the local civil service. In addition, to improve public policies, the NDS30 encourages DTCs to develop an efficient statistical system with regional and local networking. In this sense, it will be a question of developing a system for the transmission and sharing of information from the decentralised territorial authorities (DTAs).
Overall, the objectives of the NDS30 are aligned with the SDGs. The priority objective aimed at reducing poverty and underemployment contributes to the achievement of the four SDGs selected by the Commune of Maroua I. The sectoral objectives in the health and education sectors also contribute to the achievement of SDGs 2, 3 and 4.
Law N°2019/024 of 24 December 2019 on the General Code of Decentralised Territorial Authorities gives a clear role for DTCs in the achievement of the SDGs. The code specifies in article 147 that “the commune… has a general mission of local development and improvement of the living environment and conditions of its inhabitants.” It is in this sense that 63 competencies have been transferred to the communes, including economic development, the environment and the management of natural resources, land use planning and development, urban planning and housing, health and social development, and educational, sporting and cultural development.
A matrix of the anchoring of the competencies transferred by the state to the communes with the 17 United Nations SDGs gives a better view of how the DTCs can act for the SDGs. With regard to the regions, article 259, paragraph 2 states that “the region is invested with a general mission of economic and social progress. As such, it contributes to the harmonious, balanced, solidarity-based and sustainable development of the territory.”
The advantages that the DTCs present in the achievement of the SDGs, thanks to citizen participation, justify their integration and involvement in the official multi-stakeholder platforms for dialogue and consultation on the SDGs. For example, the communal development plan is developed with a strong contribution from the population. The sessions of the municipal council are also open to the public, which facilitates the monitoring and evaluation of projects. These assets also allow for project partnerships to be created with the DTCs, such as those carried out within the framework of the implementation of the United Nations Framework of Cooperation for Sustainable Development in Cameroon 2022-2026.
By drawing up its first VLR, the Commune of Maroua I has placed the SDGs at the heart of its development programme. Thanks to the planning tools – in particular, the PRO-ADP – the collection of data, monitoring and local evaluation of the SDGs made it possible to assess the actions taken by the commune, the sectoral public administrations and civil society organisations. The initiatives carried out have helped to reduce the vulnerabilities of a population considered to be one of the poorest in the country. However, the 2019 Voluntary National Review (VNR) highlighted the very low level of consideration given to communes in national reviews of the SDGs and also the mismatch between them and local realities.
Similarly, the lack of evidence-based and inclusive data is a major challenge for communal authorities to improve the relevance and effectiveness of public policies designed to benefit the population. These authorities should also better integrate the SDGs into strategic planning documents such as communal development plans and other programmes. To do so, they could draw inspiration from the practical manual for integrating the SDGs into communal development plans developed by the National Programme for Participatory Development with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support in July 2020.
To ensure regular monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs and the implementation of reforms that could result from them, the communal authorities should set up a platform for exchange, consultation and dialogue on the SDGs. This will bring all stakeholders together and take inclusiveness into account, as well as the specificities of social groups that are often left out. The VLR, which is better framed and closer to local realities, should be organised regularly to improve the effectiveness of the SDGs so far as it would make it possible to identify the main weaknesses and provide inclusive solutions.