UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos’ current visit to Guinea, Angola and Cameroon, which takes place hot on the heels of last week’s visit by US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner, seems geared to persuading the undecided to back a second UN Resolution on Iraq. Leaving aside arguments about Iraq, Global Witness is greatly concerned about what price Angola expects to extract for its support, and what has been, or is likely to be given in exchange for support at the UN?
Global Witness (1) has documented the privatisation of Angola’s civil war, where the elite created a system to loot over US$1 billion annually over the past six years. “The war was essentially privatised to benefit the elite and a handful of mafia style operators,” (2) said Global Witness Director, Simon Taylor. “We are now at a crucial stage where Angola is looking for international support for the reconstruction effort and for the international community to ease the IMF’s pressure for transparency.”
A key problem is that the state looting system remains in place and Angola’s finances are as non-transparent as the 900,000 barrels it produces each day. Meanwhile, one child dies every three minutes from preventable causes.
The UK government has recently taken the lead in emphasising the links between sustainable development and the need for citizens to be able to hold their governments accountable for the expenditure of state resources. The Prime Minister himself launched the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI)(3) at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, September 2002. Although there are essential issues that remain to be resolved by this process, the initiative promises a significant boost to sustainable development in resource rich yet impoverished countries, such as Angola.
“Given the UK government’s clear commitment to delivering with EITI, it is imperative that the UK government’s concern for support over Iraq does not jeopardise the Prime Minister’s initiative. There are too many Angolan lives dependent on there being development and not a ‘looting of the peace’” said Taylor.
Contact Simon Taylor on +44 (0) 207 272 6731 or +44 (0) 7957 142 121.
(1) Global Witness focuses on the links between the exploitation of natural resources and the funding of conflict and corruption. It is non-partisan in all its countries of operation. Global Witness has been co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its leading work on ‘conflict diamonds’. Global Witness is one of the founder members of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign of over 70 NGOs that are calling for governments, especially those in the G8, to take leadership and promote transparency over resource revenues worldwide (see www.publishwhatyoupay.org) The coalition is calling for Northern stock market regulators to require resource extraction companies to report their net payments to all governments and national authorities as a condition for being listed on stock markets. The PWYP coalition is participating in the UK government’s ‘Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative’.
(2) Global Witness’ report “All the President’s Men: the devastating story of oil and corruption in Angola’s privatised war”, March 2002, exposes the mechanisms for state looting in Angola and provides a basis for the urgent need of transparency in the oil and banking sectors. The report can be downloaded from the Global Witness website (www.globalwitness.org).
(3) The UK government has convened the ‘Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative’, headed by the Department for International Development (DFID), following Prime Minister Blair’s calls for transparency at the September 2002 WSSD conference in Johannesburg. The first meeting included about 30 governments and companies, as well as broad representation of civil society groups based in Europe and abroad. It was held in early February 2003. For more information and discussion papers on this process, see the website for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) (www.dfid.gov.uk).
Press Release / Feb. 26, 2003