1.         Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 63)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   1994-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-2005)
Total amount approved: USD 268,560
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: substantial support through the United Nations Foundation and the Government of Belgium funded programme for the Conservation of the DRC World Heritage properties. First phase (2001–2005), approximately USD 900,000 was disbursed for staff allowances, equipment, community conservation, monitoring and training activities and efforts to address encroachment. Second phase (2005-2008) a substantial contribution is planned towards the emergency action plan (USD 300,000) with funding from the Government of Belgium.

Previous monitoring missions

UNESCO mission in 1996. Several UNESCO missions in the framework of the project.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Armed conflict and political instability;

b) Poaching by military and armed groups;

c) Encroachment;

d) Expansion of local fisheries;

e) Cattle grazing.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2006

On 30 January 2006, an updated report on the state of conservation of the five DRC World Heritage properties was submitted by the State Party, including information on the Virunga National Park. The report recalls the major threats to the property, in particular encroachment by local populations, agricultural activities and cattle herding, illegal timber removal and charcoal production, the presence of illegal fishing villages on the coast of Lake Edward and the presence of military in the Park, which are responsible for 80 percent of the poaching in the property. The report describes a number of activities initiated by the State Party, in cooperation with its partners, to respond to these threats as well as certain constraints, which were reviewed during the UNESCO monitoring mission.

From 3 to 23 March 2005, an UNESCO monitoring mission visited Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The IUCN joined the mission in Kinshasa for debriefing meetings with the DRC protected area administration and the ministry. The mission confirmed that the major threats to the property are the presence of military camps and base camps of armed groups inside the Park and encroachment and illegal settlements combined with deforestation.

The mission noted that the Park is still used as a base for a variety of armed groups and that attacks inside and in the vicinity of the Park are common, including attacks on ICCN staff and infrastructure. Even during the mission, the ICCN substation of Kabaraza was attacked and the wife of an ICCN officer killed. The volcanic observatory at Kitale was also attacked and looted. At least 4 armed groups are known to operate in the Park. As a result of the presence of armed groups, certain areas in the Park are off-limits to Park staff, who are thus unable to control poaching and resource exploitation. According to the Congolese army (FARDC), the presence of these armed groups also justifies the numerous military positions in the Park.

According to the army, four brigades, totalling up to 12,000 soldiers are deployed inside and in the immediate vicinity of the Park. Only one of these four brigades has undergone the reunification and retraining programme (so called “brassage”) set up during the political transition phase to recycle the different militias and rebel groups into the unified national army. Troops who have not gone through this process are often poorly disciplined and until January 2006, were paid irregularly and often received no food rations. Since January 2006, soldiers have received a minimal payment of USD 10 per month from the United Nations Organisation Mission to DRC (MONUC). MONUC has troops in the regional centres of Goma, Beni and Butembo but also in the Park in Rutshuru.

The presence of armed groups but also of the FARDC in the property has a negative impact on its conservation. The armed militia depend for their survival on the resources of the Park and its surroundings and are heavily involved in poaching and are looting the surrounding villages. However, the mission also received information from ICCN Park staff and conservation NGO that soldiers of FARDC are also involved in destructive activities, in particular poaching, charcoal production and artisanal mining. Several armed clashes have also taken place between army soldiers and Park staff. In addition, fighting taking place inside the property between the army and armed groups, such as the violent clashes between the army and the troops of General Nkunda in February 2006, has impacted on the property.

It needs to be noted that the military authorities in the region have recently demonstrated their willingness to increase their cooperation with ICCN. A military liaison officer to ICCN was appointed and several operations have been jointly implemented. Cooperation also increased with MONUC, which has provided Park staff with necessary anti-poaching equipment and in cooperation with FARDC conducted several military operations to try to evict armed militia from the property, thereby improving security in the property.

In previous reports, the World Heritage Committee was informed about efforts by the ICCN to convince the army to close down the military camp in Nyaleke, the largest military camp located in the property and established in 1998 at an abandoned ICCN guard post. In 2005, the Ministry of Defence decided to use the camp for the reunification and retraining programme of local militia and army units and the camp was rehabilitated with the assistance of the Governments of the Netherlands and South Africa. Currently, 4,200 soldiers are being re-trained in the camp. According to reports from ICCN and conservation NGOs the families of the soldiers are also installed in the camp, which contained more than 10,000 people. However, according to information obtained through the Dutch embassy, the families were recently transferred to a site near Beni. Following complaints by the ICCN, the Ministry of Defence in a letter addressed to the Director General of the ICCN agreed to close the Nyaleke camp in April 2006 and subsequently, the ICCN proposed alternative sites outside the property. However, the mission was unable to get confirmation of the closure from the military authorities in Goma.

Concerning the encroachment, the mission also noted that significant progress was made with the evacuation of illegal occupants from the property. Since 2004, the ICCN in cooperation with its partners were able to voluntarily evacuate 70,000 people from the property. This process was supported by the World Heritage Centre through the first phase of its DRC conservation programme. It is estimated that a further 90,000 people are installed in the Park, in particular in Kirolirwe and on the shores of Lake Edward. At the time of the mission, the process of repatriating 300 Hima catlle herders, accompanied by 5,000 cattle from the northern sector of the Park back to neighbouring Uganda was on-going, following an agreement signed between the ICCN and the herdsmen. This is a significant success for the Park authorities.

In Kirolirwe, approximately 60,000 people inhabit the Park. After a long negotiation process, most of them are now ready to leave the Park and go back to their regions of origin in the Massisi and Rutshuru areas. However, this process must be supported by the authorities of the region and humanitarian organisations to ensure security. An important bottleneck to the repatriation remains the rehabilitation of the road to Bibwe. On the shores of Lake Edward 11 illegal fisheries and villages are located and expansion of agricultural fields can be noted. The area is extremely important for the integrity of the property, as it constitutes a corridor enabling wildlife to move between the central and northern sectors. Military are present in the villages and illegal fishing methods are widely practiced, resulting in over fishing. So far, ICCN has been unable to tackle this issue, which is highly political.

The problem of encroachment is directly related to the lack of materialisation of the Park boundaries, which are sometimes poorly known by local communities and even the ICCN. For this reason, the ICCN together with the WWF and with support of UNESCO and other donors has been working for several years on a clarification of controversial parts of the Park boundaries through a participatory process with local stakeholders, which are now recorded in geographical coordinates and materialised. This work will continue in the future.

The mission also noted that the Park is clearly receiving more political support from the government and the provincial and local authorities. The senior management of the ICCN has also been very active in trying to find solutions to certain problems of the Park, such as the presence of the Hima cattle herders. However, with elections approaching, certain politicians are trying to use the Park in the framework of their political campaign. An example is the Minister of Lands, who recently proposed in an official letter to diminish the size of the Park.

The UNESCO mission felt that given the instability in the region and the rapidly changing situation in the field, it was currently impossible to define a set of corrective measures and benchmarks that will clearly lead to a removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. However the mission developped a set of concrete recommendations to the State Party which can be used by the Committee as benchmarks to follow up on the efforts of the State Party to further improve the state of conservation of the property and which are detailed in the draft Decision.

The mission noted that although the Park is receiving substantially more technical and financial support than before 2004, from conservation NGOs (WWF, ZSL, FZS, DFGF and WCS) and through the European Union funded project, the funding available is insufficient to ensure effective management of the property. Virunga National Park will also receive funding in the framework of the planned World Bank GEF project, which is scheduled to start in 2007. The mission also developed, together with ICCN and the conservation NGOs working in the property, an emergency action plan that will be implemented in the framework of the second phase of the UNESCO DRC World Heritage programme with funding from the Government of Belgium. The action plan will support implementation of the above mentioned recommendations.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 30 COM 7A.7

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7A.4, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Commends the State Party, in particular the Park authority ICCN and its conservation partners for the efforts to improve the state of conservation of the property;

4. Urges the State Party to implement immediately the following recommendations of the UNESCO monitoring mission which could constitute possible benchmarks in order to safeguard the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property, and in the interest of conservation:

a) Establish a "Committee to Save Virunga" (CSV), comprised of ICCN and its conservation partners and representatives of the provincial authorities, the regular army, the United Nations Organization's Mission to the DRC (MONUC) and the agencies of the United Nations present in Goma, which will help address the threats to the property;

b) Reduce significantly the number of military positions inside the property, in particular in the central sector and ensure a close follow up at the level of CSV on cases of illegal activity by military personnel;

c) Immediate closure and removal of the Nyaleke army reunification and training camp, as decided by the Minister of Defence;

d) Continue the efforts to evacuate in a peaceful and integrated way all illegal occupants in the property, accompanied by appropriate measures to assist the reintegration of the populations in their regions of origin;

e) Strengthen cooperation between ICCN and its partners by developing a joint plan for all interventions in the Park, with clear responsibilities and an implementation plan;

f) Develop a strategy to share any profits, such as from tourism related to gorillas, with the local communities, in order to improve relations;

g) Strengthen law enforcement in the property, concentrating on priority areas, in particular where the illegal occupants were evacuated and by organizing joint missions with MONUC and the army. At the same time, it is also important to reinvigorate Park staff and improve their efficiency through specialized training;

h) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the DRC World Heritage properties, to which the Government of the DRC committed to contribute at the 2004 UNESCO conference on Heritage in Danger in DRC;

5. Requests MONUC to continue and strengthen its cooperation with ICCN and its conservation partners for the conservation of the property;

6. Further requests the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), other UN agencies and humanitarian organisations working in the region, as well as donor agencies, to support the planned peaceful evacuation of the illegal occupants in the property, in particular in Kirolirwe with the necessary accompanying measures;

7. Calls on international donors to support the efforts of the State Party for the conservation of the property;

8. Requests the State Party to provide the World Heritage Centre with an updated report by 1 February 2007 on the state of conservation of the property and progress with the implementation of recommendations of the UNESCO monitoring mission, for examination by the Committee at its 31st session in 2007 ;

9. Decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 30 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-06/30.COM/7A and WHC-06/30.COM/7A.Add.Rev),

2. Maintains the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

   • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 30 COM 7A.22)

   • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley, (Decision 30 COM 7A.23)

   • Azerbaijan, Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower (Decision 30 COM 7A.29

   • Benin, Royal Palaces of Abomey (Decision 30 COM 7A.16)

   • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.1)

   • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 30 COM 7A.31)

   • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.2)

   • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 30 COM 7A.3)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 30 COM 7A.8)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.6)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Virunga National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.7)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Garamba National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.4)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Salonga National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.5)

   • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 30 COM 7A.19)

   • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.9)

   • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 30 COM 7A.15)

   • India, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (Decision 30 COM 7A.13)

   • Islamic Republic of Iran, Bam and its Cultural Landscape (Decision 30 COM 7A.25)

   • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 30 COM 7A.20)

   • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Decision 30 COM 7A.34)

   • Nepal, Kathmandu Valley (Decision 30 COM 7A.26)

   • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 30 COM 7A.10)

   • Pakistan, Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore (Decision 30 COM 7A.27)

   • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 30 COM 7A.32)

   • Philippines, Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Decision 30 COM 7A.28)

   • United Republic of Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara (Decision 28 COM 7A.17)

   • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.14)

   • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 30 COM 7A.33)

   • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 30 COM 7A.21)