Angola

Angola: the case for landmine free optimism

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Jeanette Dijkstra, MAG Country Director in Angola

Forty years of conflict from 1961 to 2002 left Angola strewn with an estimated one million landmines and many more unexploded bombs.

But thanks to a concerted and collaborative effort, progress to clear Angola of the deadly legacy of war continues apace.

This week, the meeting of states parties (MSP) to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) is being hosted virtually, one year on from the convention's Oslo Review Conference.

In the run-up to the MSP, the Mine Action Review published its latest Clearing The Mines report, looking at progress against the APMBC goal, reaffirmed at the Oslo Review Conference, of a landmine free 2025.

The report recognised that Angola was among the top three most improved countries when it came to mine action and the goal of a mine free future.

From a precarious position, with international support at its lowest ebb just a few years ago, it is worth exploring why Angola now finds itself in a much better place today.

The most important factor of success in Angola is partnership. There is no one-man band; everyone has come together, formally and informally, to cooperate, support and challenge each other to work harder, faster, and more effectively towards a common goal.

From deminers working for humanitarian organisations like MAG to international institutional donors; from the Government of Angola to the National Intersectoral Commission for Humanitarian Demining and Assistance (CNIDAH), every organisation has played a crucial role in the transformation of mine action in the country.

Angola has proven to be an inspiring example of people and organisations coming together to speak with one voice and a shared message; "together, we will finish the job in Angola."

In practical terms, MAG in partnership with the CNIDAH, The HALO Trust and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) finished a massive project to re-survey all of Angola's 18 provinces in 2019. The project established a more accurate picture of the extent and whereabouts of remaining landmines and minefields in the country.

As a result of the resurvey and database reconciliation project, Angola was re-categorised from "massive'" contamination to "heavy" contamination. The up-to-date insights of the problem allowed the Angolan authorities to develop a new strategic plan for 2020 to 2025, with the support of NGOs.

It also allowed Angola to present a single voice from and to all stakeholders at various sector events, including Wilton Park in 2019 and the Oslo Review Conference.

Meanwhile, the Angolan government committed a huge $60 million (£45 million) to clear more than 150 minefields in the Okavango Delta to promote biodiversity and ecotourism. The US State Department has committed landmark new funding, while Japan and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have been among the most consistent supporters of mine action in Angola.

With that funding, organisations such as MAG, The HALO Trust and NPA are delivering on their targets and performing above and beyond expectations.

We cannot forget, either, the vital support of Prince Harry who retraced Diana, Princess of Wales' iconic footsteps during a visit to Huambo in 2019. Where his mother had seen only a deserted and dangerous minefield, however, the Duke of Sussex found a now bustling street cleared of its explosive legacy.

The visit and Prince Harry's support for the Landmine Free 2025 campaign revitalised awareness of the issue and helped rally support for mine action in Angola.

As a result of all of this hard work, and Angola showing its best dance moves nationally and internationally, the country has gone from losing almost 90 per cent of its funding in the last 10 years to stabilising in 2018 and increasing funding in 2019 -- and new donors continue to show interest in supporting Angola's landmine free 2025 goal.

Angola has a clear vision, strategy and commitment to a landmine-free future and great progress has been made, but the job is not done yet. There are still 1170 minefields and 88 million square metres of land left to clear.

At this moment, Angola landmine free 2025 is aspirational, but with the support of all donors and all stakeholders we can and we will finish the job.