Thank you Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s a pleasure in joining you to focus on such an important collaborative goal.
This event is the culmination of a great effort by many people to progress the vital mission of de-mining Angola - and putting it back on the map as a tourist destination.
Angola has some of the world’s most important remaining wilderness that is critical to biodiversity and an asset that should be protected, celebrated and benefitted by its people.
The ambition of the partners gathered here to create a safer environment for communities and wildlife for the success of the country is to be applauded.
I first visited Chatham House in June 2017 to take part in a scenario planning exercise - some of you in the room today were here with me.
That exercise showed me the importance of landmine clearance within a humanitarian emergency because, let’s not forget,
land mines are a humanitarian issue NOT a political one.
That exercise was especially interesting for me because I had the privilege in 2013 of visiting Angola with The HALO Trust.
In Cuando Cubango, in the far southeast of what is a vast, beautiful country, I saw a struggling community in a deserted landscape unable to make use of the land, yet the potential to turn this land into a sustainable source for its people.
In fact I was told just the other day of the positive transformation in Huambo since my mother walked that minefield all those years ago.
What is less well-known is the impact landmines can have on conservation and wildlife, and therefore the economy. We’ve heard how this is especially the case in the national parks and wilderness areas of southeast Angola, including the precious and again vital watershed of the Okavango Delta.
This unique ecosystem is one of the great wildlife refuges of the world - enriching its biodiversity for all of humanity. My hope is that through this collaboration,
minefields can be cleared, land can be protected, wildlife can be free to return to where they once roamed, and Angolans can reap the rewards by coexisting with the one constant that will draw people in from all over the world – the extraordinary setting that they call home.
Angola is an important example of a country leading the way in clearing the remnants of war to secure a better future for its people and its environment – it has been a long journey, one full of heartache and frustration I’m sure, but now with the optimism and encouragement from your Government Minister, I truly believe that Angola will become a shining example to the rest of the continent.
The funding announced today will help protect human lives and is the first step in allowing local communities to protect wildlife through the kind of conservation-led development that has been so crucial elsewhere on the continent.
Considerable progress has been made but there is still a huge amount to do, which is why it encourages me to see so many of you here today as we shine a light on the work that’s been done, but also how we can help moving forward. The fact that demining funding has been reduced by nearly 90% over the last decade is pretty shocking and we hope that today will encourage those countries not to leave a job left half done. As long as landmines are in the ground in Angola we aren’t really giving them a chance. There is an end in sight which has already been discussed, and that isn’t always the case. So let’s make the most of this opportunity.
I hope you will all join me in thanking the Government of Angola for this significant commitment to supporting its communities, its wildlife, and the bio-diversity of this planet.