Exploring a Political Approach to Rights-Based Development in North West Cameroon: From Rights and Marginality to Citizenship and Justice
Rights-based approaches to development promise to deliver many development goals, particularly in terms of creating a political environment conducive to development. As citizens become empowered through rights-based approaches to make increased demands on the state, it is envisaged that good, more accountable governance will emerge, as states fulfill their obligations to citizens. It is not clear, however, that the promotion of rights-based approaches by NGOs is likely to achieve this. Although processes of state and citizenship formation are critical for development, the sequencing of such processes and their outcomes, and the patterns of causality between them, remain historically and contextually specific. This paper reveals both the potential and the problems that arise when certain rights-based approaches engage with the politics of promoting progressive social change. It explores this challenge of transformation through a case study of a participatory rights-based programme that seeks to assist a marginal pastoral group in North West Cameroon to be empowered citizens. The programme has been relatively successful in catalysing underlying processes of sociopolitical and has improved the quality of local governance. However, the programme’s explicit, often confrontational engagement with the power relations underpinning exclusion and exploitation has been both a strength and a liability in advancing progressive social change. This raises critical challenges for the strategic, theoretical and philosophical dimensions of rights-based approaches.
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