A Window of Opportunities. Socioeconomic Rights as a Cornerstone for Poverty Alleviations in Cameroon


Academic Paper, 2021

12 Pages, Grade: 3.6/4


Excerpt

CONTENTS

1. INTRODUCTION

2. WHAT IS POVERTY AND WHAT ARE THE UNDERLING INDICATORS IN CAMEROON

3. THE NEXUS BETWEEN POVERTY AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS IN CAMEROON

4. LIMITATION TO THE OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS

5. CHALLENGES/ PROSPECTS IN COMBATING POVERTY THROUGH THE ENFORCEMENT OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS IN CAMEROON

6. RECOMMENDATIONS

7. Conclusion

Bibliography

1. INTRODUCTION

The untold truth in conventional human rights discourse points out that socio-economic rights offer hope and prospects for millions of poor and impoverished people and groups worldwide. Human rights are classified as equal, inalienable, indivisible and interdependent, but in practice, states have paid very little attention to the enforcement and realisation of socio-economic rights. They have turned almost a blind eye to the window of opportunities socio-economic rights present in improving the quality, dignity and standard of life of its citizen, arguably more than the often projected and romanticised civil and political rights. The fulfilment of some civil and political rights such as the right to life and political participation, which states often prioritise, are tangentially linked to the enforcement and realisation of socio-economic rights.

Cameroon should give more prominence to the enforcement of socio-economic rights because of its prospects towards eradicating poverty. Cameroon fails to meet up with the fulfilment of socio-economic rights and its commitment made under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The constitution makes pledges on the state's commitment to upholding human rights standards in the country, including the right to education. Apart from the right to education, the constitution is silent on many other socio-economic rights and most of these rights are only protected indirectly by the state. The neglect in the implementation of socio-economic rights has contributed significantly to an increase in poverty in Cameroon.

This paper contends that there is an intrinsic relationship between poverty and socio-economic rights. The positive impact of socio-economic rights on alleviating poverty can be improved upon through a change of attitudes from neglect to more emphasis on the implementation of socio-economic rights, owing to the prospects it offers in achieving zero poverty in Cameroon (SDG Goal 1).

The purpose of this assignment includes, among other things;

- To explore the meaning of poverty and its underlying pointers in Cameroon.
- To discuss the nexus between poverty and socio-economic rights in Cameroon by contending that fighting poverty is primarily based on the ability to guarantee and enforce socio-economic rights.
- To explain the challenges in implementing socio-economic rights and combating poverty in Cameroon.
- To advance socio-economic related policy recommendations as a stronghold towards poverty alleviation in Cameroon.

2. WHAT IS POVERTY AND WHAT ARE THE UNDERLING INDICATORS IN CAMEROON

Poverty comes from the Latin word 'pauper', which means poor or bankrupt. It can be defined loosely as a situation in which a person or community lacks the financial means and necessities for a minimum living standard. It entails a state of not having enough material possessions or income for a person's basic needs. When one lacks the means necessary to meet his basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, he is extremely poor. Poverty is equally described as a denial of choice and opportunity required to enjoy an adequate standard of living and as a violation of human dignity (United Nations Report 2001:4).

In a more concrete understanding of what poverty is, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESC Report 2011: 5) defines poverty in the light of the International Bill of Rights to mean;

‘A human condition characterised by sustained and chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security, and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural and economic, political and social rights’

This definition is recognised and used by the European Union, World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (Kulindwa and Lein 2008: 2)

The subjectivity in defining poverty has provoked an unsustainable response as many scholars seek to know the true meaning of poverty. The common factor in most of the definitions hovers around economic deprivation or a lack of income. To properly understand poverty, it is vital to adopt a multifaceted and multidimensional approach to capture the often unheard voices whose denial depicts poverty. An individual case of deprivation is the best guide to defining poverty and how it can be measured (Sekyere and Others 2020: 55). The difficulty in arriving at a concreate definition has been further exacerbated by public perceptions of poverty. Some perceive poverty to be a state of mind, while others classify it to mean the inability of a person to feed, provide for himself and his family.

Cameroon, in various ways, is defined by its location, diversity and the profusion of its natural resources. It is a lower-middle-income country with a population of over 26 million. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean's shores, bordered by Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria. It has English and French as its official languages. It has ten regions, two English speaking and eight French-speaking regions, and over 250 ethnic groups. Some of its resource endowments include oil and gas, gold, bauxite, timber, rich soil and a major exporter of agricultural products such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maise and cassava.

Indicators and facts about poverty in Cameroon is an issue ignored by the mainstream media. Still, the reality remains that the difficulties it brings make the discussion relevant for those experiencing it. Cameroon suffers from underdevelopment and poverty when viewed from the lens of specific indicators. Life expectancy rate stands at 55.5 years, at least 30% of the population continues to live below the poverty line (Index Mundi 2020), and the country is ranked the 40th most impoverished country globally (Global Finance 2020).

In 2013, 4 % of the working population was unemployed. The current unemployment rate stands at 4.3 % (United Nations Development Programme, 2018). Cameroon has a very low Human Development Index, which stands at 0.56 placing the country in the 151st position out of 189 countries. This index is calculated by the country’s health, education and income. Currently, Cameroon ranks last in the Medium Human Development category of the United Nations Human Development Index.

More than 60 % of the population in Cameroon is made up of youths below 25. At least 5.84 % of these youths are unemployed, people's ability and capacity are greatly undermined. This is undoubtedly the best criteria for measuring the Human Development of a country.

Poverty remains largely a rural phenomenon. At least 45% of the country's total population lives in rural areas. Almost 55% of those living in poverty live in rural areas where access to employment opportunities and adequate infrastructure is scarce.

This statistics of poverty in Cameroon justifies why socio-economic rights should be treated as principles of state policy.

3. THE NEXUS BETWEEN POVERTY AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS IN CAMEROON

The prominent and defining characteristic of poverty is that it constitutes an inadequate fulfilment of a person's human rights to essential resources and capabilities (UNHCHR 2011). This human rights-based approach to poverty interprets poverty from a broader spectrum, including the absence of essential resources needed to live a life of dignity. Poverty does not necessarily mean a lack of income; it is an infringement of human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 confirmed that poverty is a human rights issue. This view is accepted by several United Nations bodies, including the General Assembly. The term poverty has not been explicitly used in the ICESCR, but it is a recurrent term and has always been fundamental to the Covenant's concerns. The right to work, an adequate standard of living, housing, food, health, and education, which are core to the Covenant, have a bearing on eradicating poverty. Thus, if a person or community experiences a non-fulfilment or lack of access to socio-economic rights (health, education, food, housing etc.), then such a person or community is classified as poor.

There is an interconnection between poverty and socio-economic rights. it is important to reiterate that the implementation of socio-economic rights presents a window of opportunities for the alleviation of poverty in Cameroon.

The reluctance to ensure the implementation of socio-economic rights has mainly been on the basis of two misleading suppositions. First, there is a misconception that socio-economic rights are more capital intensive and requires a direct involvement from government as oppose to civil and political rights which simply refrains the government from infringing on the rights of people. Second, that underdevelopment justifies the non-enforcement of socio-economic rights as oppose to civil and political rights.

However, the Covenant and the African Charter does not impose any separate obligation on the state with regards to socio-economic rights, the right to education or health does not impose a more resource-intensive obligation on the state than the right to fair trial for instance. Also, should the state of Cameroon then be correct in failing to provide medical and educational facilities whereas it provides for prison facilities?

Access to health care provided in article 12 ICESC and 16 African Charter remains a challenge for many citizens and families. People often do not have the necessary financial capacity to access decent healthcare. This is a significant issue about poverty in Cameroon that needs to be addressed to prevent increased mortality. The right to health is categorised as a basic need common to all individuals and families.

Also, access to education and quality education guaranteed under article 13 ICESCR and 17 African Charter, remains a challenge in some regions in Cameroon. The average years of schooling are 10years, and adults' literacy rate is around 70% due to a lack of financial means, infrastructure, and teachers. Still, more than 80 % of the education budget in Cameroon goes to teacher salaries, yet the number of teachers in the priority education zones (ZEPs) is declining.

When a person is faced with inadequate or non-fulfilment of the rights to access to education (quality education inclusive) and health (essential medicine as a component of this right), such a person will be considered poor and experiencing a low level of well-being.

In addition, if the rationale behind neglecting the implementation of socio-economic rights is a absence of development, then how does the state plan to develop if the majority of the citizens do not have accesses to essential needs like education, health care, food and water. How does it intend to develop when there is inequality in resource distribution, food and water scarcity as well as increase migration of the active population?

4. LIMITATION TO THE OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS

Due to the expansive nature of socio-economic rights and their resource implication, often states cannot meet all of the obligations imposed on them immediately. The ICESCR and several other international and regional human rights instruments affirm that there are limits to the extent to which state may enforce socio-economic rights at any given time. Article 2(1) of the Covenant stipulates that states must take necessary steps within the limits of the maximum available resources to achieve the full enjoyment of all socio-economic rights progressively.

[...]

Excerpt out of 12 pages

Details

Title
A Window of Opportunities. Socioeconomic Rights as a Cornerstone for Poverty Alleviations in Cameroon
Grade
3.6/4
Author
Year
2021
Pages
12
Catalog Number
V1066473
ISBN (eBook)
9783346479181
Language
English
Tags
window, opportunities, socioeconomic, rights, cornerstone, poverty, alleviations, cameroon
Quote paper
Benjamin Mekinde Tonga (Author), 2021, A Window of Opportunities. Socioeconomic Rights as a Cornerstone for Poverty Alleviations in Cameroon, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1066473

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