RESPONSE TO ANGOLA’S SERIOUS HUMANITARIAN CRISIS MUST BE SHARED BY INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, ANGOLAN AUTHORITIES, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS COUNCIL

17 July 2002
SC/7455

RESPONSE TO ANGOLA’S SERIOUS HUMANITARIAN CRISIS MUST BE SHARED BY INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, ANGOLAN AUTHORITIES, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS COUNCIL

17/07/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7455

Security Council

4575th Meeting (AM)

RESPONSE TO ANGOLA’S SERIOUS HUMANITARIAN CRISIS MUST BE SHARED BY INTERNATIONAL

COMMUNITY, ANGOLAN AUTHORITIES, UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS COUNCIL

Briefing the Council on the latest developments in the humanitarian situation in Angola, Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that Angola, the United Nations and its partners had a unique opportunity to create a new partnership to address both humanitarian needs and reconstruction and development issues. 

It was important, he continued, to seize that opportunity with renewed effort and commitment, developing an appropriate framework for the partnership.  Mr. Oshima had just returned from a mission to Angola and southern Africa, where he visited three of the six countries affected by the looming hunger crisis -– Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.  The mission followed an earlier, broad-based mission led by Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa Ibrahim Gambari.

The purpose of the latest mission, he said, was to assess the situation on the ground, ensure that effective aid coordination was in place, and discuss a set of key issues with the Government of Angola.  Despite positive political developments since the signing of the ceasefire in April, the humanitarian situation in the country remained dire.  Among the major challenges were the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), including the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) combatants and their families, and demining.

Significant step-up of donor support was needed to immediately carry out those activities, he continued.  The 2002 Consolidated Appeal for Angola had requested $233 million.  To date, just $81 million (35 per cent of the funds requested) had been granted.  In the light of the changed circumstances and additional needs, there was a need to revise the Consolidated Appeal for Angola.

Several Council members noted that the situation in Angola was at a crucial stage.  While the primary responsibility for the needs of the Angolan people lay with the Government, the assistance of the international community was vital for the consolidation of peace.  Speakers shared Mr. Oshima's concern about the urgency of demining activities, which would facilitate the return and resettlement of refugees and IDPs. 

It was also noted by some delegations that Angola differed from its neighbours in that it was blessed with the resources needed to provide for its citizens.  Questions were raised on issues such as the level of accessibility for humanitarian workers, the scale of mine infestation, and a time frame for completing resettlement.

Responding to questions, Mr. Oshima noted that access had improved considerably.  Restrictions in that connection had arisen more from mine infestation than from insecurity.  Angola was one of the most heavily mine-infested countries in the world, and had one of the highest per capita rates of mine-related injuries.  At least 47 provinces, or about 40 per cent of the countryside, were heavily mined, constituting a serious impediment to return and resettlement.

Concerning the resettlement programme, he said that the Government had planned to complete the demobilization of nearly 80,000 ex-combatants by 20 July, and 5,000 of them would be integrated into the Angolan armed forces.  The Government had requested the World Bank and others to help develop demobilization projects.  The United Nations had been requested to assist the families of ex-combatants.  He was not clear on a time frame for completion of the resettlement programme. 

The representative of Angola assured the Council that his Government would take seriously the recommendations contained in Mr. Oshima’s briefing and his comments on sharing the burden of peace-building in his country.  Very soon the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would be launching a new appeal, and he would like the international community to look at Angola as a country ready to increase its share in the provision of services. 

Statements were made by the representatives of Norway, Mauritius, Ireland, United States, Syria, France, Colombia, Mexico, Bulgaria, China and Cameroon.  Also, Council President Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom) made a statement in his national capacity.

The meeting, which began at 10:08 a.m., adjourned at 11:25 a.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on the latest developments in the humanitarian situation in Angola by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

Under-Secretary-General KENZO OSHIMA told Council members that he had just returned from a mission to Angola and southern Africa, where he visited three of the six countries affected by the looming hunger crisis -– Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.  The mission, which also included Julia Taft, Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), followed an earlier, broad-based mission led by Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa Ibrahim Gambari.  The purpose of the latest mission was to assess the situation on the ground, ensure that effective aid coordination was in place, and discuss a set of key issues with the Government of Angola.

He went on to say that, as a result of the mission, he had come to the conclusion that the Government of Angola, the United Nations and its partners had a unique opportunity to create a new partnership to address both humanitarian needs and reconstruction and development issues.  It was important to seize that opportunity with renewed effort and commitment, developing an appropriate framework for the partnership.

The Government was working hard to make the April Memorandum of Understanding hold, he said.  It was already planning for rehabilitation and reconstruction and appeared ready to increase spending in the social sector.  Should that become a reality, he believed that those efforts would be complemented by significant donor support.  In the short term, the humanitarian community would have to continue with massive life-saving interventions.

Return and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), including the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) combatants and their families, were quickly becoming a major challenge, he said.  Helping displaced people to return home and re-establish a productive life would be critically important in the consolidation of peace.  Significant step-up of donor support was needed to immediately carry out those activities.

He said that the overall situation in Angola had changed dramatically since his last briefing in February.  The ceasefire was holding, and the peace process seemed to be irreversible.  Improvements in humanitarian access into many locations in the interior had had significant consequences for the population.  The humanitarian situation in many parts of the country continued to be dire, however.  An urgent and massive response was required to meet the enormous needs of large parts of the population for food, water, shelter and health.

Continuing, he described efforts by United Nations agencies, the Government and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in early April, including a needs assessment in previously inaccessible areas and newly created Family Reception Areas.  About 800,000 people were in need of emergency assistance in newly accessible areas, in addition to approximately 1.9 million vulnerable people who had been receiving assistance from the international community in April.  Also in need of help were an estimated 220,000 family members of UNITA combatants assembled in 31 of the

35 Family Areas.  Altogether, the United Nations and its partners were now targeting about 3 million people in vulnerable situations -- one quarter of the country’s population. 

With more than 400 national and international NGOs and 10 United Nations agencies involved in the effort, the humanitarian relief operation in Angola was one of the largest in the world, he continued.  The efforts of the international community were really commendable, but, at the same time, it was clear that they were seriously overstretched and underresourced.  The 2002 Consolidated Appeal for Angola had requested $233 million.  To date, just $81 million (35 per cent of the funds requested) had been granted.

According to the Government, up to 4 million people -– a third of the population -– were internally displaced.  The Government had made return and resettlement of those people a major priority, planning to resettle up to 500,000 people by the end of the year.  Some people were already beginning to leave the camps, and humanitarian organizations were working with provincial authorities to develop plans to facilitate the process before the planting season in mid-August.

He stressed that return and resettlement would need to occur in accordance with the principle of voluntary return, with full attention to protection needs.  In that regard, it was important that Angola had enshrined in national legislation the Guiding Principles on IDPs developed by the Representative of the Secretary-General for Internal Displacement, Francis Deng.  The United Nations was working closely with the Government to ensure that those rules were put into practice at provincial, as well as national, levels.  Another important aspect of safe return and resettlement was mine action, for humanitarian access remained hampered by extensive mine infestation.

Responsibility for ex-UNITA combatants and their family members who were currently assembled in the Quartering and Family Reception Areas would shift from the military to the newly founded Commission for National Reintegration after

20 July.  It remained to be seen if the Commission had the necessary resources and capacity to cope with the challenge, and the situation would require careful monitoring.

His discussions with the authorities had confirmed that the Government had the primary responsibility for providing assistance and protection to its own people, he said.  But clearly, the problems and tasks facing the Government were overwhelming, and it had indicated that it would ask for help from the United Nations and the international community.  At the same time, the country was richly endowed with old and other natural resources, and there was an expectation that the Government should be able to assume a greater share of the burden in meeting the needs of the people.  Now that the war had ended, the people of Angola deserved a peace dividend, and there was an expectation that it should come from within the country, because it had the means to do so.  The international community should come in to complement the government effort. 

The United Nations and the Government should create a new and equitable partnership in the area of humanitarian and development assistance, he said.  Such a partnership should be based on a concept of burden-sharing and transparency.  The steps that the Government could take included repairing roads and bridges to enable cheaper road deliveries; expediting customs clearance for humanitarian goods; maintaining the tax-free status of humanitarian goods; and simplifying visa requirements for international humanitarian workers.

In the light of the changed circumstances and additional needs, there was a need to revise the Consolidated Appeal for Angola for international donor support, he continued.  Council members and other Member States should be generous in their support of the new appeal for Angola, which should be ready for launch at the end of this month.  He hoped that the international community could help the people of Angola consolidate their hard-won peace and national reconciliation and help them move into normalcy, which would allow for the reconstruction and development of the country.

Remarks by Council Members

HANS BRATTSKAR (Norway) commended Angola for taking positive steps to meet the humanitarian needs of the country.  However, more needed to be done.  The Government must take the lead in preparing for the huge return and resettlement project.  Given the enormous challenges Angola faced in mine clearance, he urged the authorities to resolve institutional difficulties and provide resources for demining activities, which was important for the return of refugees and IDPs.  He encouraged the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the agencies to work for improved dialogue with the Government on humanitarian activities.  He asked Mr. Oshima if there were still problems with locations that were not accessible for assistance.  Norway had responded by providing funds and humanitarian coordinators, and more would be provided once the Consolidated Appeal was launched.

JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said that the situation in Angola was at a crucial stage.  The country was about to start with a reconstruction programme, while being faced with a severe humanitarian situation.  He agreed with Mr. Oshima that it was the primary responsibility of the Angolan Government to take care of its people.  At the same time, he also agreed with him that the situation was overwhelming and required the assistance of the international community.  There was also a need for the close coordination of donors and the Government to enhance the capacity of Angola to face its internal situation.

In addition, he emphasized the need to look at the return and resettlement of refugees and IDPs.  Mine clearance was also a crucial issue that had to be dealt with in connection with the return. Further, it was crucial for humanitarian aid workers to have access to all areas without any hindrance.  Despite its own potential for aiding its people, Angola required the assistance of the international community to enable its population to see the dividends of peace.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said that new developments in the country had also posed new challenges for the people of Angola.  Urgent nutritional and medical needs must be dealt with immediately.  Resettlement of IDPs would present an enormous human challenge.  He shared Mr. Oshima’s concern on the urgent need to pursue demining activities.  The limited approach pursued in past years must now change, and the Government and the United Nations must work together to determine the best path forward.  There was a huge humanitarian deficit in Angola, which must be addressed without delay.

Given the importance of agriculture, he asked Mr. Oshima whether there was a sense of which agricultural land was mined and the scale of the problem faced.  Also, could he give a time frame for how long the resettlement programme would take, given the present circumstances?

RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said that United States aid to Angola would amount to over $100 million in the current year.  He looked for Angola to provide leadership by committing to the welfare of its people.  Angola was different from most southern African countries because it was blessed with the resources to provide for its own citizens.  Any delay would only hurt the people of Angola.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) noted that there had been good signs regarding the political process in Angola.  The return of a large number of refugees in recent months, as well as plans for future returns, deserved full support and follow-up by the international community, as did mine-clearance activities.  He believed that investment in the restoration of peace in Angola would have a positive impact on the peace process and on the region, in general.  He noted that simplifying visa clearance for the humanitarian community was in the best interests of Angola. Had that been discussed with the Government, and, if so, what was its response?

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said that at approximately the same time as the United Nations mission, his country had also dispatched a humanitarian mission to Angola, which had found that humanitarian conditions were a cause of concern despite recent political progress.  In response to the situation, France had decided to double its contribution to the World Food Programme (WFP).  It was also going to provide other assistance, including equipment of health centres and schooling of children in several areas.  As a serious problem of IDPs in Angola persisted, he was glad that the Government had decided to work together with UNITA towards resolving it.  He was looking forward to the Secretary-General’s report, which was being prepared on the basis of Mr. Gambari’s expertise.

FABIO OCAZIONES (Colombia) expressed admiration for the devoted efforts of the humanitarian organizations working in the country.  It was clear that, at this stage of the peace process, the humanitarian needs of the population had greatly expanded.  Previously, the war had prevented the international community from determining the true needs in Angola, for mines and destroyed roads had made it very difficult to assess the situation.  Now that the international community had an opportunity to demonstrate the peace dividends to the population of the country, the Council was doing an important job by drawing attention to the situation. 

The solution of the problem of IDPs and return of families to their homes required financial resources, he continued, as well as a proper infrastructure and government security guarantees.  It was important for the Government to remain committed to tackling the needs of the population.  The tragedy of Angola should not be repeated anywhere in the world, ever again.

MARIA ANGELICA ARCE DE JEANNET (Mexico) said that providing for the humanitarian needs of the population was the greatest challenge facing the Government of the country at the present stage.  It demanded support from the international community and international organizations.  From the information provided today, the Council was aware of the magnitude of the problem of the return and resettlement of the displaced population.  In that connection, she wanted to know if the norms of resettlement of IDPs were being applied in the country.  Was resettlement being carried out on a voluntary basis, with proper conditions created for the return of families to their homes?  According to some reports, a number of IDPs living in Qito had been forcibly returned to their communities without basic means of subsistence. 

She asked further questions regarding the number of refugees returning to Angola from neighbouring countries.  Were the United Nations and agencies in the field making sure that they were being resettled in safe areas under proper conditions?  Did the United Nations have precise information regarding the number of people who needed food to survive?  Were there special programmes in place to provide care for malnourished people?

Tremendous effort was still required in demining, she said, for, without that, rebuilding and agriculture could be seriously compromised.  As the National Congress of Angola was currently considering the new budget, she wanted to know if priority would be given to social and humanitarian programmes.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said that the humanitarian situation in Angola was still disturbing, despite optimistic political developments.  Stressing that mine clearing was essential before other problems could be tackled, he expressed appreciation of the steps taken by the Government to meet the needs of the population and facilitate the work of the United Nations and its humanitarian agencies, including OCHA and the WFP.  The country’s infrastructure had been severely damaged by the years of war, and he wondered if Mr. Oshima could describe the projects undertaken to assist the Government in that respect.  Among other priorities were customs clearance and simplification of visa requirements for humanitarian deliveries.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) noted that the humanitarian situation in Angola was very serious as a result of years of war.  There were about 4 million IDPs and

2 million people badly in need of humanitarian assistance.  The international community must do its utmost to provide relief to the Angolan people.  Peace-building after the war was now on track, with promising prospects.  The consolidation of peace would require the assistance of the international community.

FERDINAND NGOH NGOH (Cameroon) said that the signing of the ceasefire between Angola and UNITA was an important milestone.  Despite that, the humanitarian situation in the country was very disturbing.  The magnitude of the needs of the people meant that more must be done by both the Government and the international community.  Mine clearance was a crucial issue, and he asked

Mr. Oshima to provide information on projects in that regard.  He eagerly awaited the report to be submitted following Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari’s visit to Angola.

Council President JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom), speaking in his national capacity, said that his country was interested in contributing to the humanitarian situation in Angola.  In that connection, the United Kingdom had a team working with the Angolan Government on identifying priority needs.  He agreed there was a need for better, more balanced burden-sharing.  He noted that the full value of the Consolidated Appeal was the same as about three weeks’ worth of oil revenues for Angola.  Angola was not a poor country, but its resources needed to be used better.  He hoped the United Nations would continue to work on the guidelines for the return of IDPs.  Was the Government working with United Nations agencies in the area of mine clearance?

Replying to comments and questions, Under-Secretary-General OSHIMA said that, generally, access had considerably improved.  The Government had been cooperative in ensuring maximum access to those in need.  The humanitarian community had been able to access 31 of the 35 or 36 quartering areas established by the Government.  Multi-sectoral operations were currently under way in those areas.  Access restrictions arose not so much from insecurity as from mine infestation.

Angola was one of the most heavily mined countries in the world and had one of the highest rates of mine injuries per capita, he continued.  The Government should be congratulated on its recent ratification of the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Convention.  Mines had been laid over a period of 30 years by many actors.  Strengthened cooperation at all levels of Government and additional funding would be welcome.  A mine survey was also necessary.  In the 2002 Consolidated Appeal Process, $6.3 million had been requested to address mine issues.  However, no funds had been received yet.  At least 47 provinces, or about 40 per cent of the countryside, were heavily mined, constituting a serious impediment to return and resettlement.

He said he had continued to raise practical issues with the Government.  Angola was a vast country, and road infrastructure was generally appalling in many areas.  Therefore, about 60 per cent of humanitarian delivery was by air, which made Angola one of the most expensive humanitarian operations in the world. 

Concerning the resettlement programme, he said that the Government had planned to complete the demobilization of nearly 80,000 ex-combatants by 20 July, and 5,000 of them would be integrated into the Angolan armed forces.  The Government had requested the World Bank and others to help develop demobilization projects.  The United Nations provided support as requested by the Government.  So far, the Government had asked the United Nations to assist the families of ex-combatants.  He was not clear on a time frame for completion of the resettlement programme. 

There were also half a million refugees in neighbouring countries, he added.  He was not aware of a voluntary return programme from those countries, although a degree of spontaneous repatriation had begun in some areas.  While the IDP guidelines adopted by Angola in its national legislation were commendable, they must be actually implemented.  

Statement by Permanent Representative of Angola

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) assured the Council that his Government would take seriously the recommendations contained in Mr. Oshima’s briefing.  With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in April, the situation in the country had changed for the better.  He was most encouraged by the fact that very soon there would be a new format for the United Nations presence in Angola.  He hoped that it would be a way to take a new look at reconstruction of the country and consolidation of the peace.

Turning to the issue of burden-sharing, he said that the Government had, in recent years, increased the share of social spending in the budget.  Referring to the assertion that two or three weeks of Angola’s oil revenues covered the requirements of the expected Appeal, he said that maybe there was a need to look at those indicators from a somewhat different perspective.  Angola should not be considered solely as a rich country.  The situation in the country was evolving, calling for a sounder response from the international community.  Very soon, OCHA would be launching a new appeal, and he would like the international community to look at Angola as a country ready to increase its share in provision of the services.

Angola was one of the countries where services were more expensive due to the need to provide assistance by air, he said.  Bridge and road repairs were among priority issues, and the country was determined to press forward in that area.  The ratification of the Ottawa Convention also pointed to the Government’s serious approach to the demining situation.  The Council could count on full cooperation of his Government.

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For information media. Not an official record.