United Nations Ambassador from Angola Discusses Post-War Efforts for Sustainable Development

December 10, 2012

In the most recent installment of its highly regarded Global Roundtable series, GFDD and FUNGLODE had the pleasure of hosting the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations of His Excellency Ismael Abraao Gasper Martins, who is also Vice Chair of the sixty-seventh session of the United Nation’s General Assembly.

Democratic development, economic diversification, climate change, public health and, perhaps surprisingly,
merengue music were the focus of Ambassador of Angola’s comments during the dynamic and informative discussion presented by GFDD  Executive Director, Natasha Despotovic.

As Angola continues to recover and rebuild following a 27-year civil war which ended in 2002, it
can already boast a number of great successes in its development.

First, the democratic development of the country continues to be strong, despite the effects of the war. The Ambassador contends that “democracy was practiced even throughout civil war; we still held elections as usual. Democracy is about dialoging and doing things together to improve situations, and that is how the war was ended.”

The average age of Angolans is 18
years, and this young citizenry is dynamic and involved, participating actively in politics and demonstrating to assert their political positions.  This participation of the youth helps to keep the democracy vibrant and evolving.

Ambassador Martins also noted that, motivated by Angola’s world-leading 11.1% economic growth rate and with a desire to maintain sustained growth, the country is taking steps to diversify its economy so that it does not rely so
heavily on non-renewable resources, such as petroleum and diamonds.

“Before the war,” the Ambassador said, “Angola used to be one of the top 3 largest coffee producers in the world.  Angola has vast swaths of land for agriculture, and the government is pushing the farming sector forward.”

This promotion of agricultural production faces a number of challenges, including irrigation and erosion, the clearing of
land mines and social programs to reverse urbanization and move the population driven to the cities during the war back to the rural areas.  However, through microcredit and poverty reduction programs, the Angolan government is attempting to reduce its 40% poverty rate, improve infrastructure and get farmers back into their homes to continue to grow the maize industry in the south and the cassava industry in the north.  While the country currently imports half of its food supply,
it hopes to move toward a more sustainable agricultural system in the near future, and even export agricultural goods such as sugarcane.

When asked about what the country is doing to adjust to global climate change, the Ambassador cited similar farming and production issues, including irrigation, water and
soil management. The country is also taking steps to protect its rainforest in the northern part of the country, and has entered into a partnership with two neighboring countries, Zambia and Namibia in the south, to protect the Okavango basin and its tributaries, which provide a great portion of the drinking water to the region. The promotion of ecological tourism is essential for economic development, which necessitates the preservation of wildlife and biodiversity in these regions as

Finally, a high infant mortality rate and the ratio of 5.5 children per mother present public health and population growth challenges for Angola, and the government is currently implementing programs to promote more sustainable population growth.  As an effect of the war, there are still many areas of the country which are isolated, and the government is focusing development aid funds to infrastructure improvements in order to better access those areas to build
small clinics.  Also, because of the isolation of these regions, census information is likely incorrect, and the Ambassador expects that the next census in 2014 will demonstrate changes in these statistics.

Toward the end of the conversation, the Ambassador remarked that there are more similarities between the Dominican Republic and Angola than we know; namely, that Angolans love to dance and play merengue music.  Thanks to the connected nature of our world, it
is easy to share and enjoy the rhythms and cultural expressions that unite us.

The GFDD Global Roundtable
The Global Roundtable is a monthly series formulated and produced by GFDD. The objective of the program is to promote dialogue on issues of international concern. Each broadcast features discussion with a prominent international figure. The series seeks to inform GFDD viewership in the United States, the Dominican
Republic and around the world of innovative initiatives pertaining to the Millennium Development Goals and other sustainable development targets being realized in each of the countries being spot-lighted.  The Global Roundtable is yet another channel by which GFDD contributes to enhancing visibility and understanding of the work of the United Nations System.

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