Gabon celebrated the inscription of its Lopé-Okanda site on UNESCO's World Heritage List over the weekend of 11-12 August 2007. Spanning four provinces, Lopé-Okanda is Gabon's first World Heritage site and also the first mixed site in the Central African sub-region. The inscription highlights international recognition of the country's outstanding natural and cultural heritage.
At the official ceremony, UNESCO's representative for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea Mr. Mohamed Bachiri handed over the inscription certificate to Gabon's Arts and Culture Minister. Present were residents of Lopé National Park, members of parliament and international diplomats.
On behalf of the president, Gabon's Vice President Mr. Didjob Divungui Di Ndinge unveiled the official plaque at the entrance to the Lopé-Okanda site. The deputy minister for the environment, the minister for forests and national parks and other government officials were also present, along with representatives of the European Union, the World Bank, UNDP, RAPAC and international NGOs.
The inscription is expected to generate economic, social and ecological benefits. Furthermore, it makes Gabon eligible for support from the 184 countries which have ratified UNESCO's World Heritage Convention. Gabon has pledged to pursue a strategy of sustainable management and preservation of the site to safeguard its authenticity and integrity. As a State Party to the Convention, Gabon can also request technical or financial support from the World Heritage Fund to reinforce its management systems, organize training or develop a consciousness-raising policy towards World Heritage.
In order to ensure the reknown of Lopé-Okanda Park, Gabon has to meet the challenges of cultural promotion, capacity building and diversification of products and services in a context of conservation of natural and cultural heritage and biodiversity.