§ 8.19 p.m.
§ The Earl of Listowel
rose to ask Her Majesty's Government how they are working with the Government of Angola and the international community to consolidate peace in post-war Angola.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I begin by thanking all noble Lords who at this late hour are to contribute to the debate. I am especially grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, who has cancelled a long-standing business engagement in order to participate this evening.
In September of last year, UNICEF invited a group of parliamentarians to visit Angola to survey projects that it supports. Many of those we met asked us to draw the attention of the international community to the situation in Angola. I tabled this Unstarred Question in response to that request, and in response to the serious humanitarian situation currently prevailing in the country. I also wanted to provide the House with an opportunity to consider the achievement of peace by the Government of Angola. I intend to tie my remarks to what I observed on that visit.
On that occasion, we visited a therapeutic feeding centre in Kuito in the central uplands of Angola. We were introduced to Mary-Ann, a two or three-year-old child who was bloated in appearance. When a centre worker touched her legs, there was no response because she was so under-nourished. The worker then passed her the empty tray and the box of a match box, indicating to the child that she should try to put it together. Mary-Ann succeeded in doing so. The worker pointed out that that was a sign that the child was on the road to recovery. Because the child's system was so weak she was being fed 12 times a day with Formula 75, which is a special milk formula with reduced nutrients. Her digestive system would have been overwhelmed if she had been fed a normal diet.
Until peace was achieved this spring, I believe that it is right to say that more than two-thirds of Angola was inaccessible. Therefore, an additional 1 million people are now dependent, and will remain so for the next year, on humanitarian relief from the UN, the NGOs, and the Government of Angola. The UN predicts that 2 million people will be utterly dependent on assistance from the UN, the NGOs, and the Government of Angola in 2003. Can the Minister tell the House how Her Majesty's Government are supporting the humanitarian effort? Can she say what representations the Government have made to the Government of Angola about streamlining administration procedures? There is some concern that relief is being delayed because of difficulties encountered by personnel in obtaining visas, and delays in the processing of material by Customs.
We also visited a camp for internally displaced people in Viyana, which is situated in Luanda, the capital of Angola. Two thousand people live in an area of about the size of two football pitches. I believe that some have been there for as long as 10 years. Those 309 people share one small latrine, with water being obtained and purchased from a tanker positioned a little way beyond.
Following the peace agreement achieved by the Government of Angola, legislation was introduced to resettle and reintegrate the displaced population, together with the demobilised UNITA rebel forces. The Angolan Government's figure regarding the number of internally displaced people is 3.5 million, which represents about one-quarter of the country's population. Approximately 445,000 former soldiers and their families are waiting to be reintegrated. There are also about 440,000 refugees set to return, or who are in the process of returning, from neighbouring countries. Can the Minister say what assistance the UK is offering in this resettlement process? Can the noble Baroness indicate whether the agreed norms for that process are being respected? Further, can she assure the House that internally displaced people are not being forcibly returned, and that the agreed minimum conditions are being met in the settlements where they are placed?
We visited the home of two HIV positive children. Their aunt had taken them into her home following the death of their parents. We also went to observe a project, Prazedor, through which young Angolans provide advice on HIV/AIDS to other young Angolans. We witnessed information and lapel badges being distributed in the street to passing vehicles. We also saw a young woman explaining the correct use of condoms and femidoms to a large group of very intrigued young men.
Can the Minister say how Her Majesty's Government are helping to assist the prevention of HIV/AIDS in Angola? Is there a clear plan of intervention in this area involving the UK Government, the international community, the Government of Angola and the NGOs? Are there clear responsibilities laid out in that plan for what needs to be done? The Minister may need to write to me on the matter.
We In ere also introduced to elected members of the Children's Parliament. We were told that recently on the radio these young people had given a Cabinet Minister a grilling on the standards of services provided for the people in the country. There is a developing civil society and an emerging pluralism in Angola. The Government of Angola intend to hold elections in 2004.
We visited a hospital in Lubango in the south of the country. The town was relatively unscathed by the war and seemed to be prospering. There were four incubators for premature babies in the hospital. The doctor said that they needed at least 10 but there were no funds to obtain the equipment. There is an extremely high maternal mortality rate in Angola. The UN figures are that there are 1,850 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. I make that approximately one mother dying for every 50 infants born alive. There are 150 infant deaths to every 1,000 live births. That is about one infant dying for every six infants born alive. The United Nations tells us that fewer than 30 per cent 310 of the population have access to adequate health services and that hundreds of thousands die from easily treatable diseases.
Yet Angola is one of the world's foremost diamond producers. In a few years it will produce 2 million barrels of oil per day—production on a similar scale to that of Kuwait. There is a great need for financial transparency. That will be essential to a consolidation of the peace.
The World Bank has said that economic reform in Angola has been halting, but that real progress has been made over time. In August 2002, the initiative by the Government of Angola to publish oil production data was described by one authority as a material step towards transparency. I know that several noble Lords will address the point about transparency.
We also visited a school for homeless girls. 'We saw some of their ceramic work in the pottery workshop: two parrots facing each other, brightly coloured and strongly patterned. It was the kind of work with which my noble friend Lord Freyberg, a sculptor, would have been delighted.
Angolans are resilient. There is an unrealised potential among the Angolan people. The country is undeveloped. Angola is well watered and in a few years might be able to feed itself and to export feed to neighbouring countries. It has a large and mostly untapped hydroelectric power potential. Angola might still act as a pole of development for its region.
There are significant challenges for those who lead Angola, and the humanitarian situation is grave. I look forward to hearing from the Minister how Her Majesty's Government are assisting.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, I am sure that those of us in the House at this late hour are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for moving this debate. If I dare say so, the issues that it addresses are rather more significant to human life in our contemporary world than the delicate problems of traffic in London with which we dealt previously. We are dealing with vital issues this evening.
I hope not simply to repeat the noble Earl's remarks but to endorse them. I chair the board of Christian Aid, one of whose teams has just come back from a country visit and has given me its briefing. I refer briefly to the pivotal role the Churches can play in these matters in a fragile civil society. The Churches represent 86 per cent of the people of Angola. I am anxious to stress that the extraordinary power of faith and the commitment to peace and the common good that the Churches represent are among the most important grassroots agents for developing a new opportunity in that country.
Achieving the absence of conflict is but one step on the road to lasting peace. The other is to harness the extraordinary resources of the country, which are its vibrant people, some of whom I have met, and its natural resources. I would add to that its resources of faith, as represented in the Churches. Just as one would be a fool not to harness the natural resources of 311 the country, so I believe that it would be extremely foolish to address these questions without considering the grassroots shape of the community's life.
Let me give your Lordships some illustrations. Radio Ecclesia, the Roman Catholic radio station in Angola, is the best source for independent news and education in the country, yet it struggles to have the confidence of the government and politicians in ensuring that its work is given resources. It has a vital role to play in finding a language for peace, which is itself a profoundly political and spiritual process. I understand that the process is greatly assisted by the Church leaders, who are uniquely placed to exercise leadership.
In the 1980s, I remember taking into the Minister's department the bishops from Namibia, in the middle of the conflict there. The Minister's predecessor recognised that the bishops and other Church leaders from that country could give information and perspectives to the government that no one else could give. I suspect that the same is true of the leadership of the Churches in Angola today.
I endorse the noble Earl's remarks about the crisis of HIV/AIDS. All my sources in Christian Aid tell me that it is a mega-crisis in Angola, and war exacerbates it. How high up on the Government's agenda is that matter in terms of resourcing and development? Does the Minister recognise that the Churches have played a pivotal role throughout Africa in dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis? That is evidenced in the collaborative work in Uganda. In January, I am going to Nigeria, where the Roman Catholic Church has given a lead and the Anglican Church is hard on its heels. I shall be talking with the Department for International Development and the Church leaders about developing the potential for projects with Christian Aid and others. That is an important issue.
I raise two questions for the Minister, referring to my experience of visiting Mozambique in 1999 on behalf of Christian Aid. In rural areas, I witnessed at first hand people coming out of villages and bringing guns, grenades and rusting weapons for a "swords into ploughshares" programme. In public view, those guns were cut up and destroyed as part of the programme, and the communities that brought the weapons in for destruction were given the resources to develop agricultural life by being equipped for the purpose. That was a local civil society agency with which Christian Aid and others were working in Mozambique in order to build peace. That did not require vast financial resources but it had a powerful cultural impact on the country. My question for the Minister is: with regard to funding arrangements, how flexible is that in terms of working with agencies at that level?
A related issue is that some of the civil society agencies in Mozambique found direct funding from political sources in western Europe, including Her Majesty's Government, difficult to handle because that appeared to compromise their political independence. They were much easier handling funding via the NGO networks, such as CAFOD and 312 Christian Aid, because that preserved their independence from the political process. That was vital at a delicate moment in Mozambique in terms of bringing warring parties together into a democratic alliance to rebuild the country.
I should be encouraged to hear from the Minister that there is some flexibility in the Government's thinking about the relationship between funding programmes and NGOs and civil society agencies in countries such as Angola. That is important because it is sometimes suggested that NGOs in that country are northern agencies, and funding NGOs in that country to fund civil society agencies in the south creates a rather charitable, power-based relationship. From the point of view of the Churches, agencies such as CAFOD and Christian Aid are part of an international network. In Angola, we have Anglican bishops and there is a strong Roman Catholic network, and we are in a relationship of communion with them. Those networks work. Are the Government able to find practical ways of working with those networks to deliver development on the ground?
I put that question to the Minister because agencies such as mine and Christian Aid are hugely grateful for what the Government have achieved in terms of development work. We are delighted with their policies and drive to improve resourcing for that work. We want flexible mechanisms to achieve development on the ground. In places such as Angola, we need to work with networks in the community and at the grassroots. The Churches are a key part of that programme.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Lord Hughes of Woodside
My Lords, I join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on this timely debate on Angola. The House should be aware that I am the president of Action for Southern Africa and honorary president of the Mozambique-Angola Committee. I immediately enter the disclaimer that the views that I express are my own and do not in any sense reflect on the two organisations that I have named.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, eloquently set out the scale of the humanitarian crisis and how that affects individuals. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford pointed out the need to work with as many organisations as possible in order to make progress.
In order to understand the problems of the peace, we must remind ourselves briefly of the problems of war-torn Angola. Angola has had no peace since the early 1960s, when the liberation movements began their war against Portugal. Except for a brief period in 1974–75, the government of Angola and UNITA—the organisation of Jonas Savimbi—were in virtually continuous war for 27 years. It ended only early this year with the death of Jonas Savimbi in combat. Throughout the period, every effort to achieve peace was thwarted by UNITA's intransigence and the way that it constantly reneged on agreements that it had 313 signed to produce a peace. Angola suffered badly from the conflicts of the Cold War. Although the Cold War has ended, there are still some Cold War attitudes about.
The actions of the Angolan Government are treated with suspicion and mistrust. For example, I think that we all agree that democratic government is necessary to cement stability and to try to bind the country together. However, in recent days we have heard suggestions—tentative ones, I admit—that the Angolan Government are pushing ahead too fast towards the democratic process, because UNITA will not be ready and not have any policies on which to fight the election.
It is going too far to say that that is a possible cause of tension. It is imperative that we say now that early elections are not designed to harm UNITA. UNITA must not be given any excuse to disengage from the peace process. It must not feel that democratic solutions are an attempt to do it down.
Perhaps I may interject an irreverent—even irrelevant—note by saying that we might apply in this country the novel idea that elections should be postponed until the opposition are ready to face them. That might release tensions in certain quarters—perhaps, not to be provocative, I should not mention who they are.
I return to the serious situation in Angola. The humanitarian crisis is huge and accelerating. Returning refugees are adding to the burden. Agreements have been reached for a voluntary and orderly return of about 450,000 refugees living in southern Africa. It is estimated that there are 210,000 in Zambia; 24,000 in Namibia; 193,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; 16,000 in the Republic of the Congo; and 10,000 in South Africa. However, it is estimated that about 70,000 refugees have already returned in advance of any preparations for their arrival. Obviously, that throws great strain on the system and much more aid needs to be given.
The United Nations points out that the consolidated inter-agency appeal for 2002 received only 60 per cent of the total requested. As of 3rd December, only 180.4 million dollars was donated, compared to the stated need for 296.4 million dollars. It was also claimed that the UN has received nothing of its requirement of 10.25 million dollars for de-mining. I know that the Government have said that they have donated money to that project; but the UN still claims that it has not received it.
Is that a communications difficulty? Is the time-lag between the declaration that money was to be given and receipt of the money the cause of the problem? Can my noble friend tell us how much has been donated to the de-mining programme? There are similar complaints and discrepancies surrounding other moneys donated to the UN. Can my noble friend say what financial assistance has been made to Angola, through all sources, for 2002 and, specifically, how much has been donated to the consolidated inter-agency appeal?
314 I immediately accept—I always have done—that the Angolan Government made mistakes during the 27 years of war. It is of course proper that they should be transparent and accountable for the spending of their oil revenues; some moves are being made to make that information available. But some balance needs to be introduced.
For example, will we ever know how much money the Central Intelligence Agency and American business pumped in to support UNITA? Will we ever know how much UNITA received in illegal diamond sales? Will we ever know what happened to UNITA's income. I accept that most of it, like the government oil revenues, may well have been spent on arms purchases.
However, the United Nations monitoring mechanism on sanctions on UNITA reports sales of UNITA-related diamonds worth 10 million dollars as recently as this July in Tanzania. Meantime, the Angolan Government fund UNITA.
I agree that we should look to the future. The war in Angola became known as the forgotten war. Angola has been described by Dame Margaret Anstee as "the Cold War's orphan". We must ensure that the people of Angola are not forgotten in their time of need. Despite the failings of political organisations, which may still rear their head, we must demonstrate that we understand the needs of the people of Angola and that those needs are paramount. Again, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on securing the debate.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for providing this opportunity, for introducing the debate so well and for allowing me to speak specifically on the building of democracy in the region.
Last weekend, I returned from a Commonwealth parliamentary visit to Mozambique, on the occasion of the 25th birthday celebrations of its Parliament. It is also the 10th anniversary of the introduction of multiparty elections in both Angola and Mozambique. Apart from the lusophone connection, the two countries experienced years of terrible civil war, following independence. Mozambique has inherited, perhaps, the worst colonial legacy in Africa. I was there 20 years ago, and I am impressed by the country's transformation since and its determination to move forward, despite many problems. After the death of Jonas Savimbi, Angola has also finally achieved peace in all but one of its 18 provinces. We are almost at the end of the Lusaka Protocol process. This week, the United Nations concluded this stage of its peacekeeping operations. It is truly a time to celebrate peace in both countries and to recognise the role of the UN, governments and NGOs in conflict resolution over many years.
The peacekeeping work must continue in new forms, humanitarian and political. Both countries now seek to join the democratic process, but at their own pace. Foreign donors' checklists of good governance, democracy, transparency, public service reform, participation by civil society are undoubtedly 315 important as new forms of aid conditionality and play a role. However, there is a recognition in Angola and Mozambique that the people are exhausted, that a plural economy must be re-built from its base, that corruption must be tackled and that new structures must be created to take account of the different needs of society.
The electoral system in Angola is already 10 years old, but it was never given a chance to work, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, said. Instead of joining the dialogue, Savimbi continued to sulk in his tent. His refusal to give up the armed struggle and accept defeat at the ballot box led to prolonged war, more bloodshed and further delay in the democratic process.
By contrast, Alonso Dhlakama of Renamo, Savimbi's counterpart in Mozambique, is already on the Damascus road. At first, he disputed the election results in 1999 that gave Renamo 48 per cent of the presidential vote. Privately, he still does, but, having lost his appeal, he swallowed defeat,in the name of peace and democracythe words that he used to me last week. To everyone's relief, he has agreed to fight next year's municipal elections. Still more, while remaining Renamo's leader, he has gradually devolved power in the party away from himself. To some degree, that may be a bid to match President Chissano's encouragement of a similar process in Frelimo, including the choice of a successor, Armando Guebuza. However, Dhlakama was firmly re-elected party leader last year and is likely to hold the reins for some years to come.
We should not underestimate ruling parties such as the MPLA and Frelimo, which have, in a sense, governed for decades and retain some of the old Marxist characteristics. They do not give up power lightly. They remain the structures by which the two countries are governed, and it will be a long time before a multi-party parliamentary system can seriously challenge the executive. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside. No one should any longer expect the Westminster model, whatever the electoral forms, to be suited to the African system, even in Anglophile countries.
Clare Short said yesterday to an all-party group meeting on African conflict that the West had pushed multi-party systems too quickly in Africa. However, there are opportunities for training and for an exchange of ideas within the southern African region itself. Mozambique—being politically a few years ahead of Angola, but behind in economic wealth and potential national unity—may have some ideas to offer the new Angolan Parliament once re-elected, if the Angolan Parliament is ready to listen.
Both Roberto de Almeida, the Angola Speaker, and Eduardo Mulembwe, his opposite number in Mozambique, are strong believers in information sharing. They both attended the SADC parliamentary forum in Mauritius last month. Last week Mr Mulembwe told me that MPs began to be paid only in 1995 and some still do not have a vehicle to take them 316 to, or around, their constituencies. Of course, in some there are no roads either. A fortnight ago, Mr Almeida said that he was concerned about the working conditions of MPs in Mozambique and expressed the need for a new parliamentary building, like the one in Maputo.
The MPLA will now have to reform its own organisation. What will be most difficult will be persuading the faithful to accept a new multi-party process. In the early 1990s, Frelimo, having renounced large areas of doctrine, took care to wean its own members away from the concept of a single party before declaring publicly for multi-party elections. The MPLA must do the same. We are told that it is now working closely with UNITA on the constitution, but it must move rapidly to elected local authorities and, even more important, elected provincial governors.
During our visit to the Mozambique Assembly last week, with some difficulty I sought to explain the composition of our Parliament. I hope that they understood that although I was accompanied by only three Labour MPs, there was no monopoly of power in the United Kingdom by our own ruling party—even though it seemed, at times, that Independents from the House of Lords were the only true opposition.
During a workshop in the Assembly, we had an interesting discussion about declaration of interests. Mozambican MPs were asking, with great sincerity and some amusement, how they could ever persuade electors not to bring them gifts and, without such gifts, how they could possibly ever be elected. There will be some sympathy for that view in Angola today.
The question of smaller minority parties is another critical issue. In Mozambique, a minimum of 5 per cent of the vote is the qualification for the Assembly, although Frelimo may agree to relax that in an attempt to break up the coalition within Renamo. In Angola, there are already many more smaller parties and the civil opposition parties—or POC which is a coalition of more than a dozen parties—are currently challenging the MPLA to move to a more consensual style of government until the long-delayed elections finally take place, we hope early next year.
As the right reverend Prelate has mentioned, important players in this process are the NGOs and Churches, which have a much stronger position in the political spectrum in Angola than in Mozambique. Historically, the Protestant Churches in Angola have been closer to the various liberation movements, but there is now a much wider coalition called COIEPA—the Interdenominational Committee for Peace in Angola—which is much respected and includes the Catholic Bishops Conference.
We are all looking forward to the Minister talking about her own experience, but I am sure that she will comment on the role of civil society in so far as she could see its development during her visit. In Mozambique, I was continually reminded that too much cannot be expected too soon, especially when it comes to progress with the poverty reduction strategy. Donors are continually learning patience with the strategy, but the contribution of NGOs at this point in 317 Angola's peace process will be vital in achieving reconciliation both during and after demobilisation and the critical return of refugees. This obviously includes the difficulties of child protection, a matter referred to so movingly by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. It will become a means of consensus building in the political process which will lead to a truly Angolan form of democracy.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate—I declare an interest as another member of the Christian Aid board—that direct funding of local NGOs can be a problem if it is threatening their independence.
This important process will require workshops, leadership training, civic education and must involve independent media such as Radio Ecclesia to reflect current concerns such as law and order, corruption and human rights abuse, and to bring about a genuine debate in society and parliament.
I know that the noble Baroness has visited development projects, including a de-mining project, but I hope that she will also comment on the role of our Government in their support for civil society in such matters as election monitoring and relevant forms of electoral training. Having seen this at work in Mozambique, I am convinced that this form of targeted capacity building is essential if political parties in both countries are to put aside their many genuine grievances, which persist, and move towards a society which more faithfully reflects people's needs.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Lord Joffe
My Lords, I, too, would like to express my appreciation to my noble friend Lord Listowel for initiating this debate on Angola. It comes at a particularly appropriate time when there is the potential to transform the lives of all Angolans.
Angola is one of the poorest countries in Africa and its people have suffered tremendously because of the brutal civil war that has ravaged the country for more than 30 years. The statistics given by my noble friend—which I shall not repeat—tell a story of terrible deprivation and human suffering. But at long last this year has brought peace across most of Angola. A combination of peace, vast natural resources and a population of only 12.5 million people creates a unique opportunity for the lives of all Angolan people to be transformed.
Already much has been achieved by the Government of Angola. This includes, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out, the peace agreement itself, with fighting continuing in only one of 18 provinces. It includes the nomination of UNITA party members to the Government of Angola and to representational posts in communes, principalities, provinces and embassies. It includes the NPLA and UNITA working closely together on a new constitution and Angola taking its rightful place in Africa with the presidency of the Southern African Development Community for the next two years.
Naturally, however, this is only the beginning and a great deal needs to be done to exploit this unique opportunity by both the Government of Angola and 318 the international community. It is of critical importance that the peace agreement is implemented fairly and effectively. If it is not, widespread insecurity and dissatisfaction are likely to result, which could undermine the entire peace process.
Since the ceasefire in April 2002, widespread population movements have begun to take place throughout the country. While some of these movements have taken place satisfactorily, there has been, not unnaturally given the scale of the problem and the resources required in terms of both human beings and money, a lack of co-ordination around the return of many from one province to another. Return and resettlement areas often lack infrastructure. basic services and adequate administration; food securities are tenuous and the promised redistribution of resettlement kits to all registered UNITA personnel has not taken place in many cases. Linked with this, there are reports that some ex-UNITA personnel have been rejected by the communities to which they have returned.
Displaced populations, particularly when on the move, may be vulnerable to a wide range of human rights abuses. There is concern about a number of protection issues that are presenting themselves in relation to the movements of populations and with regard to populations currently remaining within gathering areas/displaced people camps.
It is naturally the responsibility of the Government of Angola to support and protect the returned displaced peoples, but it is to be hoped that the donor community, including the United Kingdom, will support the government in this critically important area. It would be interesting to hear the Minister's judgment of what is happening with the resettlement programme.
Another key issue, referred to by my noble friend Lord Listowel and others, is transparency in relation to oil and diamond revenues. Now that the civil war is over, there is an opportunity for the Government of Angola to ensure that there is transparency in relation to the revenues received from oil and diamonds.
In this regard, the oil companies operating in Uganda have an important role to play. It is enormously encouraging that BP has agreed to publish details of all payments it has made to the Angolan Government, and I understand that this approach has the active support of President dos Santos. If that is so, it is a great step forward. Will the Minister advise the House whether Her Majesty's Government will be in a position to put pressure on other oil companies to do the same and use their influence with the European Union and the USA to ensure that oil companies based in those countries will do likewise?
BP's willingness to publish details of payments made to governments is an important step forward and it will be welcomed by the Global Reporting Initiative, the aim of which is to make sustainable reporting as routine as financial reporting. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to ask the Minister what the Government's approach is to this initiative.
319 The development of greater capacity in government institutions at all levels to deliver public services equitably and efficiently, and within civil organisations to influence government policy and actions, will be a key factor in building a new Angola that responds to the needs of all its citizens including the poorest.
However, there is concern about the potential constriction of the political space within Angola. By way of example, NGOs were not able to comment on the new NGO law which will affect all national and international NGOs working in Angola. On the other hand, there is the good news that Angolan NGOs and civil society generally have been invited to comment on the proposed land legislation.
Our Government would be making an important contribution to the future of Angola if they were able, by reference to the importance that they themselves place on consultation with the NGO sector, to influence the Government of Angola to extend and deepen their partnerships and dialogue with NGOs and representatives of Angolan civil society.
Over the past month, there has been an increase in mine incidents throughout the country, including several fatal accidents. For example, on 13th November, six Médecins Sans Frontières staff and one non-staff member were killed and a further six were injured while at work when an anti-tank mine exploded under their vehicle near Mavinga.
Increasing population movements over the next few months, including movements into non-cleared areas, will make the situation more hazardous. Mine risks also pose a considerable security concern to humanitarian actors working in the field within Angola and place very real constraints on their work. What priority do the Government give to de-mining, and what action might they be able to take to assist the Angolan Government with this?
There has been much talk, and much has been made, of the tremendously important need for humanitarian assistance to deal with the current position, particularly in inaccessible parts of Angola, during the next year or so. Ultimately, development is even more important than humanitarian assistance. It will be interesting to hear what aspect of development the Minister's department is focusing on. I will also be interested to hear her views on the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford on flexibility in grant-making and in achieving development. It is to be hoped that the UK and the international community will maintain their funding for humanitarian operations at this crucial time.
Finally, reference was made to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Vast numbers of Angolans have died as a result of the civil war. It would be a tragedy if, now that the war is over, millions more were to die of AIDS. My noble friend Lord Listowel has drawn attention to what he has seen in Angola as regards prevention.
As the Minister would know, there has been a remarkably successful AIDS prevention campaign by the government in Uganda. Is the Minister aware of 320 any steps towards a similar campaign in Angola? If not, could our Government bring their skills and experience to bear in this area, working in collaboration with the Angolan Government?
Failure to halt the spread of AIDS in Angola could imperil the entire recovery process and the unique opportunity that now exists.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on the remarkable timing of this debate, to which the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, has just referred. Angola is on the threshold of peace and preparing to embark on a huge reconstruction programme. I also congratulate the new Prime Minister, Mr Fernando dos Santos Nando, on his appointment, which was announced last week, and on his reported priorities: the consolidation of the democratic process, transparency in public management, the control of inflation and combating poverty. I am sure that he has the good wishes of the international community in carrying out those formidable tasks. I expect that he will also be able to rely on practical help from the United Nations, the European Union and the UK with such a programme.
Reference was made to the calamitous 27-year civil war and the 40 years of conflict, which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, mentioned. There should now be a peace dividend as defence expenditure is reduced and economic activity revised, particularly in the former war zones. The government should now tell the Angolan people and the donor community how much they expect to save on military spending, including foreign arms purchases. The armed forces, with 100,000 men, are still the largest in southern Africa and, I think, on the whole continent. They have taken on another 5,000 from the disbanded UNITA forces. Although the troops are said to have been withdrawn from the DRC, they are still engaged in the Republic of Congo and, we now read, in the Cote d'Ivoire. An extra 7,000 troops have been put into Cabinda.
A country that cannot afford to educate two thirds of its children and is relying on foreign aid to feed 2 million of its citizens cannot afford to be involved in these foreign military adventures. It should be demonstrating that it intends to retrain former combatants from both sides for the reconstruction of the economy. We have heard that Angola is still infested with hundreds of thousands of landmines. The noble Lord, Lord Joffe, referred to an incident last week, when seven people were killed by a landmine that exploded under an MSF vehicle.
I suggest that Angolans themselves should be retrained to clear mines and other unexploded munitions, rather than bringing foreigners to do this job, and that it would be a very useful task for the ex-combatants on both sides to undertake. Surely Angolans should also be involved in the AIDS programme which has been mentioned by several noble Lords and in the programmes for democratic education and leadership training which was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich.
321 One consequence of the peace is that the Security Council dissolved the UN Sanctions Committee and Monitoring Mechanism, although it intends, it says, to give full consideration to the report to be submitted by this Friday on the breaches of sanctions against UNITA that may have occurred since last April and the identification of the frozen UNITA funds and financial resources referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes.
There are still some issues left over from previous reports of the mechanism. In October, the chairman, Mr Juan Larrain, said that, although increased international vigilance had put some of the sanctions breakers out of business, the persons identified had been only the tip of the iceberg. The criminal networks—and I am using his words—that had profited from the conflict had not been fully identified, prosecuted or eliminated. I ask the Minister whether they are still being pursued. Are we trying to locate and destroy the huge amounts of military materiel which are unaccounted for and which now might be traded by the same people into the DRC? Who is going to do that as the mechanism has been scrapped?
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, on the wonderful work that she has been doing across the continent of Africa and the tremendous travel she has undertaken on behalf of this country. When she was in Angola last week, did she read the speech of the oil Minister, Bothelho de Vasconcellos, addressing the fourth Conference on Oil in Angola? He said that oil revenue would be used increasingly to solve the problems of social and economic recovery. With production at 740,000 barrels a day, increasing to 1 million in 2003, and, we are told, to 1.4 million in 2004—LNG may also be coming on stream; currently, most of the gas is flared—in 10 years, Angola's oil income may be larger than Iraq's, but with only half of Iraq's population. At current prices, the gross oil revenue could reach 14 billion dollars in 2015.
In the past, Angola's published accounts have not been open to public examination, as has been said, and there have been serious allegations, particularly by Global Witness, about the way in which money has been diverted into shady arms deals as well as into the pockets of Ministers and their favourites. So it was particularly welcome when the Prime Minister put transparency high on his list of priorities. As Global Witness points out, the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises advocated a strong disclosure regime though they stop short of making it mandatory for companies to disclose the payments they will make to host governments.
I should like to join in the congratulations expressed to BP, which is aiming for "radical openness" and says that it will not engage in any form of bribery or corruption, thus setting a very good example which has not been entirely welcomed by its competitors, although Chevron, Shell, Texaco, Occidental and Statoil have all signed up to the Sullivan principles which bind companies not to offer pay or accept bribes. There is legislation in the US, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; there is an OECD Convention on Bribery; and there is an EU directive against bribes, 322 but irregular payments are still being made. These measures fall short of the demands made by the "Publish What You Pay" coalition.
At the Johannesburg Summit, the Prime Minister announced that Britain would convene a discussion among governments, companies and NGOs or. the problem, and the Government have since launched the extractive industries transparency initiative, a set of principles to which a growing number of multinationals have signed up. I think that I am right in saying that the only state which has so far adhered to these principles is the Central African Republic, whose Prime Minister paid a useful visit to Britain just a few weeks ago.
As we have heard, Sonangol, the state oil company, does not publish its accounts. It receives some payments from companies into bank accounts outside the country. Marathon Oil Company, for example, is reported to have paid 13.7 million dollars into a Sonangol account in a Jersey bank on 15th July 2000. The IMF has since found that an estimated 900 million dollars went missing from Angolan government accounts in the year 2001 and a total of 4 billion dollars over the previous five years. Its report, which was leaked to the BBC, refers to "extensive corruption" and poor financial management.
The Angolan Government did agree to what they called a "diagnostic" of Sonangol's accounting practices as one of the conditions for the restructuring of their debts. KPMG looked at the records for 1999 onwards and produced three reports, none of which has been published. But research by Global Witness showed that between September 2000 and October 2001 Angola took out 3.55 billion dollars worth of oil-backed loans on which payments of principal and interest are made direct to creditors from the proceeds of oil sales, and that was in spite of an agreement with the IMF to limit new borrowing in 2001 to 269 million dollars. Those loans are probably at excessively high interest rates and Angola would do much better to borrow from the IMF, but that would mean conforming to IMF rules, particularly on fiscal transparency. The rules of the NePAD Declaration on Democracy, of which Angola is a signatory, also commit members to the principle of transparent and accountable government, and that is the declared policy of the new Prime Minister. I hope that we can explain the principles of the transparency initiative to NePAD and discuss whether it could form a useful model for a protocol to its declaration.
Britain enjoys cordial relations with Angola. BP is a substantial investor in offshore oil; Crown Agents have been extremely successful in managing the Customs service, more than doubling the revenue to 550 million dollars this year, and British Airways has just opened a direct service from London to Luanda. As we heard from the right reverend Prelate, our Churches have a vital role to play in mobilising aid communities in the forthcoming task of reconstruction.
As a trusted friend, we should offer our help in promoting a new agreement with the IMF which will be necessary if international backing is to be secured for a huge programme of post-war reconstruction. As 323 the EIU points out in its recent survey of Angola. But it also says that there are powerful vested interests against reform because political and economic power is wielded through secret offshore accounts and shadowy oil funds which bypass the Treasury and the budget. As Angola emerges from the nightmare of internal warfare that has scarred a whole generation, she must also escape from the miasma of corruption and elitism which still prevents the people from realising their great potential. We should do our utmost to help the people gain the power that is rightfully theirs.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Baroness Rawlings
My Lords, the House is most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for initiating this debate on Angola. The noble Earl spoke most movingly of his visit to that country for which we are grateful.
It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. This is a timely debate as the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, has recently returned from her first official visit to Angola. It will be interesting to hear of the Minister's first hand experience. Like the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I congratulate the Minister on all the good work that she does in Africa.
As we have heard from several speakers, Angola today is one of the world's poorest countries despite being blessed with outstanding natural resources. It was always said that Angola was the one African country that had great potential if only it could have peace. Now is the time, with the civil war over, to test that potential even though there still remains low intensity fighting in the small enclave of Cabinda, north of the River Congo, where disunited guerrillas demand separate independence. Although this is the key area of oil production, it had hardly affected the oil industry.
Angola has, at last, achieved peace. It was interesting to hear the Church's contribution from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford.
The reconstruction can now be partly financed by Angola's oil and diamonds, by the assistance of 100 million dollars from the United States and by £15 million of aid from the United Kingdom. That money is vital for the reconstruction of Angola following, as we heard, years of civil war, which hampered the ability of international aid organisations to alleviate Angola's immediate serious problems.
According to a recent BBC report from the IMF, it was found that last year nearly 1 billion dollars had disappeared from Angola's finances. The sum is far greater than the value of humanitarian assistance sent to the country this year. The report adds that, over the past five years, a total of more than 4 billion dollars are unaccounted for. In the longer term, the lack of transparency in Angola's accounting systems threatens to jeopardise progress towards restoring the country to self-sufficiency and sustained peace. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that it is wrong to press our form of government on Africa, but we all feel that transparency is needed world-wide.
324 Despite their potential wealth, millions of Angolans are now wholly dependent on aid for their survival. Seventy per cent are below the poverty line. This is a country that has a population of only 12 million people. It is the eighth largest supplier of oil to the United States. At present, seasonal rain threatens to prevent aid trucks from reaching their destinations. The outlook for those depending on the country's natural resources is poor. Few Angolans have any crops. Fighting has prevented them from planning for the future. They have the added problem of landmines, which still scatter the countryside—a sick reminder of the civil war, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe.
The Foreign Secretary supported the peace process. Therefore, can the Minister tell your Lordships what the Government are now doing to help to rehabilitate Angola? As many of your Lordships suggested, the potential for sustainable development is certainly present in Angola. I repeat: the oil industry is enormously lucrative. It is estimated that this year it will earn Angola £4.46 billion. Clearly that could offer the country a promising future. It has recently been estimated that oil production will peak at 1.8 million barrels a day.
Sadly, however, Angola's politics are such that the expansion of the industry is fraught with difficulty. Even if that were not the case, there is little evidence to suggest that the profits of the oil industry would do anything to alleviate the terrible poverty and famine that blights the country. Why?
We were all shocked to hear from recent reports that over the past five years more than 4 billion dollars remain unaccounted for in Angolan Government finances. The IMF report containing that information also noted that there had been little progress in terms of governance and fiscal transparency. I believe that that lies at the heart of the noble Earl's concerns, and it was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe.
The only way that the Angolan people can ever benefit from their country's resources is through the development of a fully transparent system of accounting. Oil companies working in the country suggest that the improvement of transparency in economic affairs is the responsibility of the Angolan Government. While acknowledging that improvements need to be made in terms of transparency and stamping out corruption, the Government deny all allegations of discrepancy in their accounts.
The multinational oil companies are wary of criticising the Government because they are involved in sustained negotiations over the right to exploit newly discovered oil fields. They are also obliged to work in partnership with the state oil company, Sonangol, which was named in the IMF report as being responsible for many of the problems in accounting in the oil industry.
Clearly, there are complex problems facing all those with an interest in the Angolan oil industry, not least the Angolan people. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain the current involvement of our Government in encouraging and assisting the Angolan 325 Government, either independently or through the International Monetary Fund, to improve its record on transparency and corruption.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I congratulate the new President and wish him well. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in his speech last month, said:Our government needs to face all these problems with determination and courage.A few days ago we formed a national commission in the fight against AIDS, which will centralise state actions aimed at reducing this disease. We are aware of our responsibilities, which are immense",as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford.
Angola was elected to the United Nations Security Council on 27th September with 181 votes; more than other countries elected for a two-year term; more than Chile. Germany, Pakistan and Spain.
The recent signing of the "Kimberley process" in Interlaken was most welcome. The new regulations will come into effect in the New Year, potentially bringing about the end to the trade in "blood diamonds". As your Lordships know, diamonds have fuelled wars all over Africa. During the final years of Angola's civil war, UNITA depended on diamond sales to fund its war effort. A recent UN report suggested that the UNITA rebels are still in possession of large quantities of illicit diamonds. However, there has been some concern over the stringency of the regulations. Diamonds are such a valuable commodity to warmongers throughout the world. They are an easy way of moving finance and there is little hope of a fully comprehensive tracking process ever corning into effect.
I should like to see a self-regulating diamond industry with effective ways of tracking the progress of diamonds from mine to the point of retail. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain to your Lordships how the UK is working within the context of the Kimberley process to ensure that illegal diamonds do not enter the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that 20 per cent of the industry is blighted by corruption. I should be reassured to know that this country is not contributing to the survival of that 20 per cent.
There have been achievements in Angola since April. I commend the efforts of the Chevron Texaco Corporation, the UN Development Programme and the Angolan Government in bringing about the Angola Enterprise Fund. That fund is intended to help small businesses and is precisely the kind of development that can contribute to the stabilisation of the economy in the long term.
As many of your Lordships have suggested, Angola is in desperate need of sustained peace in order that it might stabilise its economy and stamp out any remaining corruption. It is clear that corruption continues to kill by preventing the population from ever seeing its rightful income. For a country that could be so rich, the true extent of the humanitarian crisis is shocking.
326 I am confident that the Government are fully committed to working with the international community in bringing about peace and stability. I greatly look forward to hearing the Minister's comments.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for initiating this important debate, and noble Lords for their kind comments about the value of my own work.
I visited Angola for the first time last week. I had an opportunity to meet a number of Ministers, opposition leaders and civil society. I also visited Huambo, a city that suffered badly in the war. I was briefed by the humanitarian agencies and visited an orthopaedic centre which helps victims of landmines.
In the discussions I had with everyone it was clear that no one wants to return to the fighting. Angola needs a long-term sustainable and inclusive peace. The Government and UNITA, with the support of the international community, have made much progress towards this goal. The completion of the Lusaka process on 21st November has helped. The objective of full reintegration of ex-UNITA soldiers into the FAA and back into civil society remains a priority, but follow-up work is critical. Ex-UNITA soldiers and their families—almost 400,000 of them—expect at least a minimal peace dividend: to return to their homes with some means of making a living. It is vital that their modest aspirations are met.
The situation on the ground remains difficult. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked about the resettlement of displaced people. We welcome the incorporation into Angolan law of the norms for the resettlement of displaced populations, but we remain concerned by claims that a significant proportion of recent resettlement has not been carried out in line with those norms. We shall continue to press the Angolan Government and the international community to Help ensure that those norms are applied in future resettlement programmes.
There continue to be allegations that people are being forcibly returned. In my discussions with the Government, I was assured that the tight timetable that had been set for return has now been set aside. We have to be vigilant in our dialogue with the Government of Angola to ensure that this is put into practice.
The noble Earl also asked what assistance we were providing in resettlement. We provided technical assistance to the Government of Angola and the World Bank in designing a national programme for the reintegration of ex-combatants arid their families into the community.
Our embassy in Luanda is continuing to press the Angolan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Angolan Embassy in London to introduce a more reciprocal arrangement on the issuing of visas. Visas for the UK are multiple entry and valid for six months. We think that doing something reciprocal will assist the process.
327 The humanitarian situation, which was mentioned by many noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, remains very serious. Since the ceasefire, already overstretched agencies have been able to reach many thousands more severely malnourished people. However, humanitarian agencies are still unable to reach about 200,000 people and 40 per cent of the countryside due to damaged infrastructure, inadequate road networks and extensive landmine infestation.
I was asked specifically about what the Government are doing to help. We have provided almost £8 million in humanitarian support so far this year. This includes £2 million for the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins sans Frontières and a recent contribution of over £3.5 million to the 2000 UN country assistance plan. I think I was asked specifically about that.
My noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside mentioned the situation of refugees in neighbouring countries. Some 500,000 Angolans took refuge in the neighbouring countries of Zambia, Namibia, DRC and Congo-Brazzaville during the war. On 29th November, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees signed an accord with Zambia, Namibia and Angola to facilitate the voluntary repatriation in 2003 of 264,000 refugees. Similar accords are expected with the DRC and with Congo.
When I was in Angola I was struck by the vacuum between the policies that are set in the capital and delivery on the ground. That clearly needs to be addressed. There is a lack of capacity, but a myriad of priority needs, including the need to rebuild the infrastructure and the need to de-mine the country. I saw for myself the risks from landmines, with schools adjacent to minefields and people using the fact that we are now in the rainy season to plant very close to mined areas. The presence of mines is also hampering the delivery of food and of humanitarian services—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe.
I can confirm that NGOs are building the capacity of Angolans to demise; indeed, that information was passed on to me personally. Both UNITA and the government are assisting in identifying mined areas, which is also helping the deep demining process. We have allocated almost 500,000 dollars to UNDP to improve the effectiveness of mine action. We also contribute to EC mine action work in Angola.
We are also working to raise the living standards for the poorest in Angola. As part of that process, we are providing £7 million to the Luanda Urban Poverty Programme, which aims to put in place replicable and sustainable ways of improving economic livelihoods, and access to basic services.
The issue of HIV/AIDS was raised by many speakers, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. The World Bank is considering a major project as part of its transitional support 328 strategy. This is not an area that the UK Government are supporting at present. We hope that the World Bank will put considerable resources into that area.
We are also considering the issue of additional support for Angola. There is a proposed donors' conference. I had much discussion with the Government of Angola about this, because they need to have the confidence of the donor community before undertaking such a conference. I take on board the comments made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford about the importance of flexibility in funding.
If Angola is to flourish, its government need to devote more of the country's considerable resources to meet the humanitarian needs of its people. We understand the constraints on their budget. The war has only recently ended, and there are many priorities. But, as many noble Lords have said, Angola is a nation of enormous economic potential, not just from oil, diamonds and other minerals, but also in terms of its fertile soil and abundant water resources.
In the early 1970s Angola was a major exporter of coffee and virtually self-sufficient in food. Our aim is to work in partnership to help the country to help itself to get back to that productive capacity, with all the attendant benefits in employment and poverty reduction. The Angolan Government need to make the right kind of investment in the well-being of their people.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, about the development of the democratic process. The end of the war has opened up the opportunity for Angola to become a fully democratic state. It will be possible to hold elections in the foreseeable future. All sections of Angolan society need to be included—UNITA, other political groups, the Churches, and civil society. I explored with UNITA its own view of its transition. It is critical that Angola should lay the right foundations now for its future political architect]ure. The stability of the state and the freedom and prosperity of its people depend on it. The more inclusive the process, the more likely that good governance will not only emerge but will also be sustained.
I have a few words to say about the important role played by the Churches. I met Tony Nzinga, the head of the Protestant arm of the Council of Angolan Churches, and was able to hear at first hand not only about its work but also about the issues that he saw as priorities in terms of taking the country forward.
I also had discussions about the Angolan Government's agenda of economic reform and transparency. I stressed to the Minister of Finance, and to the governor of the Central Bank, the importance for Angola of resuming productive dialogue with the IMF and the international financial institutions (the IFIs). Full publication next year of KPMG's oil diagnostic would be a major step forward. I was encouraged to hear that it is intended to publish at least the executive summary of that diagnostic.
329 Sustainable reform is a key building block in a number of sectors. The international community would like to see genuine reforms in the security sector and improved transparency in the legislature, judiciary, military, police and other agencies.
Once the right political and economic infrastructure is in place, investment will follow. We shall encourage British businesses to maintain the highest standards of corporate citizenship and good corporate governance.
I turn to the issue of transparency, which was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Joffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. At the WSSD the Prime Minister announced an initiative to promote transparency over payments in revenue in the extractive industries. I have had discussions with my G8 and NePAD colleagues—the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will be pleased to know—about this becoming a global initiative. I also discussed it with the Government of Angola. We see the Publish What You Pay initiative as complementary to the work that the Government are doing on this. The aim of the initiative is to develop effective mechanisms in order to achieve transparency of payments and revenues in the extractive industries. It will increase the knowledge of revenues that will empower citizens and institutions to hold governments to account.
330 There are opportunities for Angola to emerge from the shadow of war and to play a regional role, especially as it is now chair of the Southern Africa Development Community. It helped to broker the Uganda/DRC agreement. We look forward to it taking on more responsibilities and in time perhaps contributing in a regional peace support role.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said, Angola has gained a seat on the UN Security Council starting in January. We look forward to working with Angola as a fellow Security Council member. I believe that there is a great deal that Angola can gain from that membership. Having membership will carry much responsibility, particularly for promoting peace and stability in Africa and the world and national reconciliation and reform within its own borders.
I end by saying that Angola has an historic opportunity that neither it nor we should waste. Much has already been achieved—more perhaps than might have been expected at the outset. If we had been having this debate a year ago, we would not have thought that we would be where we are today. But there is still a long way to go. The Government are ready to work with all Angolans to help their country realise its full potential.
§ House adjourned at seventeen minutes before ten o'clock.