Decision : CONF 205 V.18-27
Salonga National Park (DRC)
V.18 This was the only site under direct control of ICCN-Kinshasa. In Salonga, the Director General of ICCN has developed a number of small projects supporting the conservation of key wildlife species in co-operation with NGO partners like the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) and the Max Plank Institute (MPI) of Germany. IUCN has been informed by ICCN that uncontrolled poaching of elephants and the bonobos, lack of equipment for staff for anti-poaching work, insufficient numbers of guards and inadequate training available for guards are some of the major constraints to the effective protection of this site. The plight of the bonobos has attracted particular attention of specialised NGOs such as the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (Washington, D.C., USA). UNEP has launched a Great Apes Initiative to protect the gorillas, chimpanzees, the bonobos and other related species; the most important habitats of several of these ape species are concentrated in the World Heritage sites of the DRC and protected areas of neighbouring countries like Rwanda and Uganda.
V.19 The UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP Project - Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict – conservation of the World Heritage sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - was designed and launched in 2000 as a step to build the morale of the staff who demonstrated dedication to conservation of the sites in the DRC by continuing to remain and work in a region where risks to their lives and property are significant. Paying monthly support payments, performance related bonuses and other remuneration to site staff as a way of stabilising the conservation situation in each site was considered a priority. Despite legal and administrative delays during late 2000/early 2001, contracts have now been finalised with NGO partners to deliver support payments to site staff of all five sites.
V.20 Monthly support payments, performance related bonuses and other remuneration to more than 500 staff in Virunga, about 230 in Garamba and about 60 in Okapi had begun to reach the sites and will cover a period backdated to October 2000. In the case of Salonga, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) has begun transferring payments to the site with the help of several partners in Kinshasa including the UN Organisation Mission in DRC (MONUC). In Kahuzi Biega too, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in co-operation with the GTZ (Germany) project for the site is assisting the Centre in transferring funds for the benefit of this site staff. In Salonga and Kahuzi Biega payment to staff will be backdated as of February-March 2001. The delays incurred in establishing contracts with NGOs for transferring year 1 payments to site staff were regretted by all concerned but will help to prevent such delays in establishing similar contracts at the beginning of the subsequent years of the 4-year project. Hence the path for effective delivery of assistance to site staff on a continuous basis for the period 2001-2004 has now been cleared.
V.21 Other arrangements for the execution of site-specific and joint activities, e.g. biodiversity monitoring, training for site staff in law enforcement monitoring, purchase and delivery of equipment essential for staff performance of duties etc., are being negotiated with selected NGO partners and will be finalised soon. Possible dates for a high level diplomatic mission to the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, and the possibilities for the Director-General of UNESCO leading such a mission, are also under study.
V.22 The Bureau was pleased to note that the Belgium Government has approved a 4-year project (for 300,000 Euros) to support community-based activities for the conservation of the DRC sites. This project brings in essential benefits to the sites through the work of local communities who must support the work of site staff for effective conservation. UNESCO and the DRC Government are about to finalise the Operational Plan for the execution of the UNESCO/Belgium/DRC Project. Project execution will commence soon and run parallel to the UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP Project.
V.23 A UN Panel Report on the "Illegal exploitation of mineral and forest resources in the DRC", released in April 2001 holds many of the African countries implicated in the war in the DRC responsible for unsustainable and often illegal resource extraction practices in DRC. Most of those countries are States Parties to the World Heritage Convention. In respect of the coltan mining threat reported earlier, IUCN pointed out that the UN Panel has recommended that the "Security Council should immediately declare a temporary embargo on the import or export of coltan (and other resources)....." and that "UNESCO in collaboration with UNEP, the Secretariat of CITES and non-governmental organisations working in the DRC, should assess the extent of damage to wildlife in Garamba National Park, Kahuzi Biega National Park, the Okapi Reserve and Virunga National Park, and propose sanctions to be taken against those countries whose Governments were involved in the mass killings of endangered species". The report's findings imply that many African States Parties involved in the war in the DRC may have failed to comply with Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Convention that calls upon States Parties to refrain from actions that may directly or indirectly damage the Heritage situated in the territory of another State Party to the Convention.
V.24 Pointing out the historical responsibilities of Belgium to the DRC, the Delegate of Belgium expressed his country’s satisfaction at being able to support conservation of World Heritage sites in the DRC. He, however, emphasised that poverty is the prime cause driving unsustainable exploitation of resources in the DRC, including the illegal exploitation of coltan. He called for the Convention’s emphasis on international co-operation, as highlighted in Article 11 of the Convention, as the best approach to appeal to other States Parties, including the closest neighbours of the DRC, to support the conservation of World Heritage sites in the DRC.
V.25 The Delegate of Thailand expressed concern with the situation in Kahuzi Biega, as 90% of the area was inaccessible and there were 10,000 mines. In such a situation he wondered whether de-listing of the property was not advisable. In response to that, the Centre and IUCN, noted that considerations for de-listing of any one of the DRC sites, including the worst-affected Kahuzi Biega National Park, are premature at present. It was not possible to quantify the problem in the absence of research. The area had lowland gorillas, a "flagship" species. In addition, there were positive developments indicating that peace would return to the DRC. The Delegate of Morocco observed that ecosystem rehabilitation will have to figure prominently in the future management of the sites in the DRC in order to revive wildlife populations that are being decimated during the current period of conflict and restore other World Heritage values which are under severe pressure.
V.26 The Bureau invited the Director-General of UNESCO to write, quoting appropriate texts from the UN report on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC, to Heads of concerned African States Parties to the Convention, recalling their obligations to comply with Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Convention and inviting them to ensure that their representatives and agents in the DRC refrain from taking actions that may directly or indirectly threaten the integrity of the World Heritage sites in the DRC. The Bureau urged the Centre and IUCN to liaise with T.I.C. to explore ways and means to initiate a dialogue between the member companies of T.I.C. and their respective Governments, States Parties to the Convention. Such a dialogue should make the T.I.C. membership fully aware of their countries' obligations under the World Heritage Convention to protect the heritage of all States Parties to the Convention, including that of the DRC. The Bureau noted with satisfaction that monthly support and other payments are now reaching the site staff and thanked the UNF for providing this timely assistance that will continue until 2004. The Bureau stressed, however, the need for the Centre and its project partners to ensure effective and timely execution of the 4-year UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP Project and requested the Centre to submit a report on the progress achieved by the project to the twenty-fifth session of the Committee in December 2001.
V.27 The Bureau also thanked the Government of Belgium for approving, within the framework of its co-operation agreement with Belgium, a project to support local community activities for conserving the World Heritage sites of the DRC. The Bureau recalled its discussions during the special opening session on the morning of 25 June 2001 on heritage conservation in regions of civil unrest and armed conflict, and noted that the implementation of UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP and the UNESCO/DRC/Belgium Projects in the DRC could provide valuable lessons on the subject. Any future discussions on this theme should henceforth include both World Cultural as well as Natural Heritage.