Ulandsseminar on the partnership of Norway and Angola
Three panellists from different backgrounds shared their expertise in Angola, and discussed the responsibilities Norway has in its biggest and most important economic partner in Africa. The seminar was facilitated by Johan Nordgaard Hermstad from the Norwegian Council for Africa.
The first presentation was given by Justin Pierce from the University of Cambridge who has made his PhD on the civil war of Angola. In the seminar, he focused on the peace process. Although the war ended 13 years ago there has not been a significant increase of democracy in Angola, and the reasons can be traced back to the peace process and how peace was built. One of the reasons is the political system, where one party, MPLA, has a strong position. MPLA regards itself being responsible for ending the war, and any opposition to MPLA is seen as opposition to peace. At the same time, more than half of the population is so young that it does not remember the war, and is not content with the current politics of MPLA. This has caused protestations and demonstrations that authorities solve with violence. According to Justin Pierce, peace in Angola is negative peace, used for political purposes and it has no link to human rights or democracy.
The next panellist was the former ambassador in Angola, Jon Vea. He talked about the economic partnership of Norway and Angola. Norway has a long relationship with Angola, first in the form of humanitarian aid and later as an economic partner. Particularly, the vast oil resources of Angola have attracted Norwegian companies, and nowadays humanitarian aid has changed into business related aid. But considering the political situation in Angola, one can ask if Norwegian companies have an obligation to promote human rights or if they even should exploit resources of a country that does not respect human rights. Jon Vea thinks that Norway could build better human rights culture in Angola, especially because Norway has been present in Angola for a long time and does not have history of colonialism. But what is now missing is the political will in Angola to improve human rights.
Freelance journalist Maren Sæbø brought up the fact that the oil income is not necessarily spent in the right way. The infrastructure in Angola has been improved but there is a lack of hospitalities and not much money is directed to education. She also raised the question when Norway should step in and say that the development is going to a wrong direction.
One can question if Norway can really influence the human rights situations in Angola. But what all panellists agreed on was the fact that Norway could influence other international actors, and to improve human rights we need also a change in international regulations.
More information on the human rights activism and defence of democracy in Angola: www.makaangola.org
Photo: Michelle Nguyen