Global Policy Forum

Presentation to the Arria Formula Briefing - Angola - Oxfam

Oxfam International
March 5, 2002



We would like to thank the Permanent Mission of Singapore for sponsoring this meeting. Since their inception, Arria Formula briefings have been a valued opportunity for NGOs to highlight to the Council particular concerns we have about the plight of people in need and to ask the Council to act to address conflict, and assist and protect civilians. This presentation will echo many of the concerns raised by NGO colleagues here today.


This afternoon's meeting comes at a time of new uncertainty for Angola. The death of Jonas Savimbi presents new possibilities. Our partners hope that their calls to the Government and UNITA to lay down their arms will now be heard. There are signs that civil society will no longer be entirely excluded from any future peace process. There are new hopes that Angola's vast natural resources of oil and diamonds might now fund reconstruction rather than fuelling war. Such developments are the essential foundation to a better future for Angola's people.

But our briefing today is intended to focus on the plight of millions of Angolans without the very basic humanitarian assistance and protection that they need to survive. UNITA still exists and the war is not officially over. The situation for millions of Angolans, particularly those who have fled their homes, remains dire. It is vital that a cease-fire is declared, and that in its efforts to support any peace process in Angola, the Security Council does not ignore the humanitarian situation, which has deteriorated dramatically in the past year.

Our plea today is that yet more needs to be done - by the Government, UNITA, the Council, donor governments and key actors in the economy such as oil companies – to address appalling human suffering and offer some hope to the people of Angola.

Our Main Concerns

1. An end to forcible displacement

In the Open Meeting of the Security Council on 13th of February 2002, the Angolan Government reminded the Council of the appalling atrocities perpetrated by UNITA forces. In his presentation, the UN Under Secretary-General noted that more than half a million Angolans were displaced last year alone. But this is an incomplete picture. What was not mentioned is that a significant proportion of those displaced were the direct result of the Angolan government's counter insurgency war tactics.

We see this in our work. In Bie province, for example, where Oxfam is working, an average of 7,000 persons have been displaced every month since July 2001. During January 2002 alone, 15,397 new Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were reported in Bie. Over 50% of these people reported that Government forces had moved them from their homes.

2. Upholding commitments to assist and protect civilians

Forcible displacement itself is not a violation of International Humanitarian Law, but failing to assist those displaced is. We are not here to take sides, but to speak from our experience. That experience tells us that it is not solely UNITA that is failing to uphold obligations to assist and protect civilians.

In March 2001, IDPs began to arrive in the municipality of Camacupa, many of them in a deplorable condition. The influx continued, so by August, there were 20,000 people in need of assistance. As a result of military operations by the Angolan government forces in nearby Cuemba, these people had been denied access to their fields and had left their homes in search of food. As humanitarian agencies were unable to reach Cuemba due to the insecurity, and a broken bridge over the river Kwanda, the Government authorities and humanitarian actors agreed to an emergency plan. Aid agencies were to assist the IDPs in Camacupa while the Angolan Government assisted the people in Cuemba. However, the Government did not provide sufficient assistance to the Cuemba municipality with the result that 10 months later, more than 59,000 IDPs left their homes seeking assistance - an increase by 300%.

The Angolan Government has incorporated the Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced People into law. In Camacupa, it made promises to assist people it had forcibly displaced. Yet in practice, thousands of civilians are being left without assistance or protection. This is a violation of the Guiding Principles (1). We call on the Angolan Government to do more to deliver on its commitments.

3. Humanitarian access

MSF have highlighted how humanitarian organisations currently have access to barely 10% of the areas where needs are estimated to be critical. The Council has a key role to play to apply consistent pressure on UNITA and Government forces to uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. This includes allowing safe passage for, and access to all civilians in need, regardless of their political sympathies. The Angolan Government could do much to improve access by delivering on its commitments to repair roads, bridges - such as the Kwanda bridge - as well as airstrips/airports. Ensuring adherence to legislation facilitating access to fuel would also make a difference for humanitarian actors(2).

4. Funding humanitarian assistance and transparent use of revenues

As well as ceasing forced displacement and measures to increase access, the Government could go much further in committing its revenues – roughly 90% of which come from oil – to meet the serious social and humanitarian needs of Angola's impoverished people. According to UNDP, in 2001, the government allocated 3.4% of its budget to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Reintegration, which covered humanitarian relief, salaries and administrative costs. The Government is also recently reported to have made further commitments (3). But the lack of transparency on precisely what funds go where make it difficult for Angolan civil society to monitor what their government is doing. Despite earning around $ 3-5 billion last year, one child dies of preventable disease in Angola every three minutes. Therefore, we urge the Council to press the Government to increase its contribution to the welfare of its people.

We also urge the Council to press oil companies to be transparent in their revenues. To date, none of the thirty oil companies operating in Angola have published information about their oil revenues and payments in Angola. There is a growing network of people working for peace in the country but without transparency, such members of civil society cannot monitor how the Government uses its revenues.

5. Curbing the trade in conflict diamonds

As the Council is aware, the other part of the picture of the use of Angola's vast natural resources is the use and abuse of diamond revenues. Action by the Council to date has had a positive effect, according to expert estimates on the fall in UNITA's income (4). More now needs to be done. This is an opportune moment to address the Council. In two weeks time, 35 governments – Council members among them – will meet in Ottawa with the aim of finally agreeing an international scheme for the certification of rough diamonds. As we speak, General Assembly members are discussing a resolution expressing support for the Kimberley process. For the proposed scheme to be effective, it must be binding and include provisions for monitoring the certificates, a system to collate standardised statistics on production, important export, and thus a coordination mechanism or secretariat. Some participants have also raised concerns that the system would constitute a violation of WTO rules. All these issues must be resolved in Ottawa in favour of a system with real teeth and a chance to make a difference to the people of Angola and the millions like them enduring the costs of conflict funded by diamonds.

We urge all Council members to press for the right result in Ottawa: an international certification system with strong monitoring, audit and compliance mechanisms to document the origin of all rough diamonds in order to curb sales of ‘conflict diamonds and protect legitimate producers of diamonds in Africa. We hope too that the Security Council will endorse such a scheme, to give it the force of the Council's backing. The risk is a scheme that does more harm than good.


These presentations have focused on the humanitarian situation. Whatever turns the war or peace process takes in the coming weeks and days, urgent action is required to address the suffering of millions. Action is thus needed on several fronts. First and foremost, there must be a concerted effort on the part of the Government to increase access and resources for humanitarian work.

The Council and the donor community should be consistent in impressing upon the Government that it must do more to uphold its obligations to assist and protect civilians caught afflicted by the consequences of war. This requires action to stop the forcible displacement of civilians, and more to assist those in its care.

We also urge the Council to ensure that dialogue with UNITA includes discussion of their obligations to ensure that civilians receive humanitarian assistance protection, in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.

The Council has a key role to play to see the Kimberley Process agree a rough diamond certification scheme that is binding and has a real chance of curbing the trade in conflict diamonds. The Council also has a role to impress upon companies that they should be transparent about their activities.

Finally we return to the peace process. In the Council meeting three weeks ago, many participants noted that an end to war is the way to end suffering. A sustained cease-fire is the dream of many Angolans. So is a peace process that delivers. More needs to be done to strengthen the incipient process of peace talks. Oxfam had hoped to bring two of Oxfams Angolan partners to be here to brief the Council. They chose to remain in Luanda to participate in talks with the Government aimed at developing a strategy for peace. This is the latest in a series of important developments that include the efforts of SRSG Gambari and the engagement of the international community. We urge the Council and the SRSG to press all parties to announce an immediate cease-fire, and to press the Government to ensure that moves towards peace are truly inclusive and have the full participation of Angola's civil society. Their role will be critical in monitoring and supporting a lasting peace.

APPENDIX Oxfam has been working in Angola since 1989. Over the past 12 years, we have continued to collaborate with Angolan communities and partners to support them in solving their own problems and tackling some of the underlying causes of poverty in Angola, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to those affected by war. On the humanitarian front, Oxfam is today providing water and sanitation to over 320,000 people displaced as a result of war in the provinces of Bie, Huambo, Malange and Benguela.


1) While International Humanitarian Law permits forcible displacement of civilians under certain circumstances, warring parties remain responsible for the condition of those displaced. As the Guiding Principles make clear, even where displacement is deemed necessary for military reasons, ‘all measures shall be take to minimise displacement and its adverse effects…[and to ensure people are] in satisfactory conditions of safety, nutrition, health and hygiene.' (Principle 7).
2) Despite Government legislation to make fuel available through government agencies in the provinces, in Malange, Bie and Huambo, humanitarian agencies have had little support in the procurement of fuel, as the fuel agency of the government has preferred to sell the fuel on the local market than give it to the humanitarian actors as legislated.
3) OCHA report that the Government have indicated allocation of $60 million dollars for humanitarian support in the next 6 months, to be released $10 million a month.
4) See le Billon cited in Oxfam International ‘Angola's Wealth: stories of war and neglect,' September 2001.



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