[REPOST] Cameroon diplomats reflect on their GCSP experience

After two weeks together in the heart of international Geneva, the journey for ten diplomats has not ended but has just begun! The 2nd edition of the course on Good Governance and Migration displayed to its participants an exchange of knowledge and experience, visits to key international institutions and a tour of the best of Geneva.

Alexandra Matas, the director of the course reflects, ‘It was a great pleasure to work with this group of bright young diplomats from Cameroon, they were eager to learn and share with their colleague’s back home new knowledge and ideas. I wish them all the best in their diplomatic career.’

Achu Coretta Penn, a Contract Officer in the Ministry of External Relations, and Azaah Njei Nelson, Senior Foreign Affairs Attaché for the Ministry of External Relations in the Department of Protocol and Consular Affairs shared reflections on their experience of the course with GCSP:

Recalling the course topics, Azaah Njei Nelson commented that, ‘migration happens because of a lack of good governance. Migrants leave because opportunities are not there,’ referring to the case of Cameroon. Achu Coretta Penn continued, ‘these topics are interrelated: Why do people move? Their needs are not taken into account or they are discriminated against. If resources are not shared in such a way that everyone believes they have a part in building the country, they feel left out and it is important to understand the impact that has on a country.’

When asked about his key learnings from the course, Nelson said he was finally able to understand the difference between the term ‘migrant’ and a ‘refugee’ highlighting that ‘a migrant leaves voluntarily; refugee migrates because of natural or artificial cause.’ He went to mention how this helps him in the work he is doing in Cameroon and how the terms are used in policy.

The way media portrays migration, it is like the whole of Africa is leaving and coming to Europe. No, it is not like that.

Achu Coretta Penn

Penn, however, emphasised the importance of true information, specifically in reference to the media. She said, ‘the way media portrays migration, it is like the whole of Africa is leaving and coming to Europe. No, it is not like that.’ For example, looking at media as an actor, ‘it affects mindsets and has the power to manipulate making it even more important for those making policies. We are the ones who should know what the issues are and what the truth is.’ She questioned, ‘why do you think refugees and migrants are not welcome in all countries? It is a mindset – the media says ‘let’s build walls and close the borders,’ and it happens.’

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Central achievements of the course were shared by Penn, highlighting that ‘the Cameroon team has been trained. We have a good mastery on contemporary challenges, we have the tools and are equipped to approach concerns like migration and good governance.’ Nelson stated before he focused on a more pedagogic approach, but he appreciated ‘moving from the ‘teacher-lecture, student-notetaking’ approach to a more practical and interactive classroom.’ With this approach ‘you can retain much more’ and he wishes to take the approach back to his teachers and colleagues in Cameroon.

Part of the interactive and hands-on approach included visiting top international organizations and institutions around the region including the United Nations, International Organization of Migration, UNHCR, as well as the Geneva Parliament. Penn and Nelson both deeply appreciated a chance to visit these places, Penn remarked, ‘we hear about these places on TV, read about them, hear [about] them on the radio – but to finally get there and think ‘I am finally here’ with these experts who work in the field. Seeing how they deal with people on a daily basis, their way of working with the government and other communities to address an issue – we had so many questions to ask them.’ Nelson claims, ‘it was very beneficial. I received knowledge that I did not have before, for example, operational mechanisms of federal parliaments. I had theoretical knowledge, but here I received detailed explanation about the application of federalism’

Reflecting on their experience at the GCSP, Nelson said, say, ‘[a] huge thanks to the organizers,’ and Penn shared, ‘thank you for the care and the warm welcome and most of all thank you for the friendship. I hope I will be back one day.’

This course will be offered mid-January to a delegation of Iraqi diplomats. The course sits under the Effective Governance Cluster within the Regional Perspectives Programme at the GCSP.



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