YAOUNDE, November 25, 2014 - The legislative elections of September 2013 marked a historic moment for Cameroon on its journey towards greater gender equality. Female representation in parliament reached a new high, with over 30% of Cameroon’s parliament consisting of women - a stark contrast from 2007 where only 14% of parliament was female. Cameroon joined a select group of countries that has made significant strides in the area of gender balance, and is looking to continue to strengthen its institutions with the aim of increasing transparency and promoting good governance.
In line with this goal, Cameroon’s president Paul Biya and its parliament hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) in Yaoundé, bringing together over 150 members of parliament and parliamentary staff from across the globe to exchange knowledge and best practices related to fiscal analysis, the budget process, stakeholders, and data accessibility. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference is organized each year by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), an international organization consisting of parliaments from Commonwealth countries, of which President Biya is the Vice-Patron.
More than 600 delegates from more than 175 parliaments and regional legislatures attended the 60th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference that took place from October 2-10, 2014. This year’s theme was “Repositioning the Commonwealth for the post-2015 Development Agenda.”
Cameroon is unique in that it is one of the few countries that identifies equally as being part of the Anglophone and Francophone parliamentary communities. As such, the World Bank Group worked with the CPA Secretariat to design and deliver a series of knowledge exchange sessions during the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference that focused on the role of Francophone and Anglophone parliaments in a country’s budgeting process. These sessions, targeted to members of parliament and clerks, drew on the global knowledge work the World Bank’s Parliamentary Strengthening Program has been undertaking on parliaments and public financial management. They also addressed topics such as oversight, representation, lawmaking, and innovative approaches to reform.
Over the last decade the CPA has been a close development partner of the World Bank Group and the Parliamentary Strengthening Program (PSP) regularly contributes to the design and delivery of technical assistance and capacity building initiatives in conjunction with the CPA.
“The World Bank is collaborating with both McGill University in Montreal and Laval University in Quebec City to deliver university-based professional development programs for parliamentary staff from around the world. The English language program, at McGill University, is now in its fourth year and has an enrollment of almost 100 students, proving popular with English speaking parliamentary staff, consultants and others interested in parliamentary development. The next residency will be held in Montreal May 4-8, 2015 followed by the first French language program in June 10-19 2015, in Quebec,” explains Dr. Rick Stapenhurst, Professor of Practice at McGill University.
The Parliamentary Strengthening Program seeks to enhance the capacity of parliaments so they can effectively perform their functions in order to better contribute to open and collaborative development. The program focuses on two areas: open budgeting, which consists opening up fiscal information and achieving effective public participation, and institutional strengthening of parliamentary secretariats.
In October 2014, Cameroon established a chapter of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and the IMF (PNoWB/ IMF) to facilitate and encourage direct dialogue between parliamentarians and multilateral development institutions in an effort to promote greater transparency in development cooperation, particularly with regards to World Bank programs. With support from the Cameroon World Bank office, the Cameroon chapter of the PNoWB will also help raise awareness of the World Bank’s development agenda in the country.
“It is important for Cameroonian parliamentarians to increase their collaboration and cooperation with Bretton Woods institutions. This will allow us to seize opportunities to build capacity within parliament in order to strengthen public governance and parliamentary quality control,” notes Pauline Ndoumou, Chair of the PNOWB Cameroon chapter.