By Prince Kurupati
The past recent months in Cameroon have been turbulent as the country continues to battle its demons. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as several individuals and institutions are taking it upon themselves to change and turn the prevailing situation into something better, in turn, uplifting the lives of Cameroonians. One such institution is the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation Inc. whose efforts and work in bringing much-needed change and development to Cameroon were recognised by the United Nations on the 24th of July this year.
On the 24th of July 2018, the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation Inc. became one of the very first institutions in the history of Cameroon to be bestowed with the prestigious Special consultative status. The Special consultative status is a special grant that’s bestowed to organisations which are doing incredible work in the field of economics, social development and governance.
Speaking after the historic decision by the United Nations, Foretia Foundation co Chair, Dr Denis Foretia could not hide his happiness. In his own words, Dr Denis Foretia said that “Becoming an organisation in special consultative with the United Nations is a strong recognition of the impact of the work the Foundation has been doing in uplifting Cameroonians and seek Cameroonian solutions to Cameroonian problems. This recognition serves as a major encouragement to our team, to continue open doors for many and seek ways of improving the livelihood of fellow citizens.”
In order to have a better appreciation of the reasons that motivated the United Nations to grant the Foretia Foundation the Special consultative status, it’s imperative that we first take a look at the work being done by the organisation.
Work that’s being done by the Foretia Foundation to uplift the lives of Cameroonians
Foretia Foundation is involved in a number of activities in Cameroon all of which are aimed towards improving the standard of living in the country as well as uplifting the great nation of Cameroon. The first program that’s being run by the organisation is the Sustainable Development Program. Under this program, the organisation crafts and formulates alternative policies meant at ensuring equitable economic growth today and for future generations. The organisation drafts alternate policies in a number of fields including education, public health, and private-sector growth as well as government policies.
Secondly, the organisation runs a Governance & Democracy Initiative. The aim of this initiative is to encourage Cameroonians to actively take part in governance issues. Foretia Foundation views citizen participation as a key tool in building robust democratic institutions and as such it organises regular policy forums, workshops, debates with the masses in an effort to arouse the interest in active citizenry.
Thirdly, Foretia Foundation believes that “Small businesses help drive economic growth by creating employment and allowing the growth of a veritable middle class.” As such, the organisation runs a program termed the Small Business & Entrepreneurship program. The main focus of this problem is to empower young people and women to venture into entrepreneurship as a way of reducing the high unemployment rate. The foundation empowers young women and people in a number of ways including improving access to market opportunities, reducing the problem of information asymmetry by providing real-time information of business opportunities, facilitating collaboration with various stakeholders and promoting a strong business culture in the country.
The organisation also works hard to tackle the significant health challenges that are faced in Cameroon. Through different strategies some of which include formulating alternative health policies that focus on food security and childhood illnesses among many others.
Foretia Foundation also has its own think-tank, the Nkafu Policy Institute. This think-tank covers a lot of areas and its work is not confined to Cameroon alone but it also provides independent, in-depth and insightful policy recommendations that advance the economies of other sub-Saharan countries.
Lastly, the foundation plays its part in reducing the high unemployment rate in the country as it has an internship program that ‘employs’ and imparts undergraduates, graduates or professional students with relevant skills which will make them succeed in their future endeavours in the corporate world. Among other things, the interns at the Foretia Foundation assist the Nkafu Policy Institute with extensive research, analysis, briefing and report writing for current initiatives and in preparation of policy briefs, reviews and analyses, assist with administrative responsibilities relating to the daily operations of the institute, and they are also responsible for developing the content for all foundation events such as lectures, panels, conferences and forums.
What the Special consultative status means for the Foretia Foundation.
Marc-André Dorel, the Acting Chief NGO Branch Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development Department of Economic and Social Affairs was the official entrusted by the United Nations to relay the message in a letter that the Foretia Foundation had been granted the Special consultative status.
In his letter, Marc-André Dorel stated what the Foretia Foundation stands to benefit as a special consultative partner to the United Nations. Firstly, the consultative status enables the organisation to actively engage with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies in a number of ways. This means the foundation will be able to consult with the Member States and the United Nations system at large, based on the nature and scope of work that it undertakes.
Before ECOSOC relays its agenda to the public, the foundation will have the privilege to be informed about the provisional agenda of ECOSOC. After reviewing ECOSOC agenda before its release to the public, the foundation will also have the privilege to request the Secretary-General, through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, to place items of special interest in the provisional agenda. However, the final and binding decision lies with Secretary-General whether to incorporate the request/s or to ignore them.
Foretia Foundation also now can attend meetings and have direct access to the United Nations. The foundation is free to either designate official representatives to the United Nations Headquarters in New York and the United Nations offices in Geneva and Vienna (permanent) or sit as observers at public meetings of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, General Assembly, Human Rights Council and other United Nations intergovernmental decision-making bodies (temporary). For the former, nominated representatives are required to collect their grounds passes in person at designated locations in New York, Geneva and Vienna.
In addition to providing written statements to ECOSOC, the Foretia Foundation now as a result of its consultative status can present oral presentations before the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
Additionally, as a consultative status, Foretia Foundation now has the privilege of using United Nations facilities including accommodation for conferences or smaller meetings related to the work of ECOSOC, facilities for obtaining documents during public meetings of the General Assembly that deal with matters in the economic and social and related fields, access to United Nations press documentation services, and the use of United Nations libraries.
In return to the above privileges, Foretia Foundation is required to fulfil its own set of responsibilities. These responsibilities include submitting quadrennial reports as and when they are required i.e. once every four years. Failure to abide by these responsibilities will lead to the suspension and withdrawal of the consultative status.
Other notable factors which may lead to the suspension and cancellation of the consultative status include involvement either directly or through its affiliates or representatives acting on its behalf, clearly abuses its status by engaging in a pattern of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and if there exists substantiated evidence of influence from proceeds resulting from internationally recognized criminal activities. In addition, the organisation has to refrain from entering into business arrangements on behalf of the United Nations or misuse the United Nations’ name or logo for endorsement of an organization’s activities in any way.