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NGOs have traditionally had little scope to bring about political reform in developing countries. This was certainly true of French development NGOs (NGDOs) operating in Cameroon during the early post-colonial decades. This situation changed in 2002 when French NGDOs, with support from the French state and Cameroonian civil society, initiated a multi-actor consultative programme (the PCPA), aiming to build democracy in Cameroon. This article traces the origins of the PCPA, assesses its achievements, and explains why the programme failed. It then identifies key lessons and asks whether the PCPA represents a useful model for French NGOs and donor states.

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