1.         Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 718)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1996

Criteria  (x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   1997-present

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

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Adopted, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4264

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4264

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Proposed, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4264

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1993-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 103,400
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted in the framework of the project “Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict” funded by Belgium. Phase I (2001-2005): about USD 250,000. Phase II (2005-2009): USD 300,000. Phase III (2010-2013): USD 350,000. 

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and May 2006: UNESCO World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2009: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a)  Extensive poaching of large mammals, in particular elephants;

b)  Mining activities inside the property;

c)  Uncontrolled migration into the villages located within the property;

d)  Illegal timber exploitation in the Ituri Forest, which might affect the property in the near future;

e)  Planned rehabilitation of the National Road RN4 crossing the property, for which no proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 25 February 2013, the State Party submitted a brief report on the state of conservation of the property, with summary information on the implementation of corrective measures.

As mentioned in the 2012 report, the return of the "Simba" armed group has revived the climate of insecurity in the Reserve. This group is involved in poaching, notably elephants, and illegal mining. On 24 June 2012, during the 36th session, the headquarters of the Reserve suffered a violent attack by the Simba:  six people (including two Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) guards) were killed, fourteen okapi in captivity were slaughtered, and the facilities and infrastructure of the headquarters were looted and destroyed by the rebels. A joint military operation of MONUSCO (UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC) and FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) was carried out to secure the area. Since then, FARDC soldiers are present along the road which crosses the Reserve to dissuade the armed groups from launching additional major attacks.  The guards returned to the Reserve at the end of August, while the technical and scientific staff returned there in October 2012, although security remains very uncertain.  Attacks against guards, local communities and the patrol stations continue sporadically. The current circumstances of insecurity have not allowed the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to undertake the reactive monitoring mission requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012).

a)   Continue efforts to solve the problems of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) involved in poaching

The State Party notes the organization of joint patrols with the army in the eastern and southwest sectors of the Reserve which are under the supervision of the ICCN. These operations led to the seizure of 28 guns, 665 cartridges and 26 tusks, and the arrest of four suspects.

b)   Officially cancel all artisanal mining rights, as well as those, encroaching on the property, granted by the Mining Cadastre

The report states that since the June attack, almost all the mining sites that were evacuated in 2006 were re-occupied by Simba rebels. No progress has been made in the cancellation of mining titles granted by the Cadastre, encroaching on the property. Nevertheless, the results of the Conference on "Governance and transparency in the mining sector" held in Lubumbashi in January 2013 must be stressed. (See the General Report on the World Heritage properties of the DRC in WHC-13/37COM/7A.Add).

c)   Take measures to mitigate the impacts of increased traffic in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve,

and

d)   Legalize and increase the scope of the pilot system to regulate and monitor immigration and traffic on the RN4, including obtaining the right to close the RN4 to traffic at night and set up a toll system

The State Party emphasizes the provincial government's refusal to close the N4 to night traffic inside the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.  However, talks between the managing authority and the provincial government should be re-initiated in 2013. The report also notes an increase in immigration to the site since a recent attack on the city of Mombassa.

e)   Finalize and approve the management plan for the property

Due to the difficult security situation, no progress has been made with this work. The draft Management Plan and the Land-Use Plan, available since 2012, have therefore not been submitted to stakeholders.

f)   Integrate the activities of the Immigration Control Committees (ICC) and the Local Committees for Monitoring and Conservation of Natural Resources (CLSCN) in management activities of the livelihood zones

The report provides no information on this corrective measure.

g)   Continue efforts to strengthen surveillance

The security situation has led to the interruption of all surveillance activities, following the evacuation of personnel from the Reserve in June. Since October 2012, the Managing Authority has been gradually regaining control of areas around the Epulu Station and the southwest sector of the Reserve. In addition, a surveillance plan has been established, surveillance stations have been reopened and illegal settlements destroyed. However, it should be noted that much of the Reserve is not yet under ICCN control. The report also notes that the deployment of a large number of soldiers, within and on the periphery, is a threat to the property and it notes the lack of commitment of the Kisangani military authorities to eradicate armed poaching.

h)   Halt the illegal traffic of timber, minerals and ivory through its north-eastern border

The State Party considers that the main problem in halting the illegal trafficking of natural resources is the continual rise in the price of ivory on the international and domestic market. This market is fuelled by strong demand from buyers located in large towns near the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and Kinshasa.

i)   Develop and implement a zoning plan for the forest areas adjacent to the property

The report indicates the extension of the zoning system that enabled the delimitation of 27 agricultural areas and 22 hunting areas in the Reserve, as well as ongoing consultations to define the limits of the future strict conservation zone. However, it gives no information on the forest areas.

j)   Wildlife inventory

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the report of the 2010/2011 inventory, implemented with the technical support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), has recently been published. The report shows a further reduction in elephant populations at the site, with a decrease in density of 30%. The distribution zone of elephants has been further reduced, and they are increasingly concentrated at the centre of the Reserve, which seems to be more secure. The report also shows that the population of chimpanzees, a species little hunted in the region, is stable. The density of small ungulates decreased while that of okapi has increased.

k)   Support to the property following the security crisis

The State Party report notes that the support of German cooperation (KfW) to the site has been suspended due to safety concerns. Following the attack in June 2012, ICCN and the Coordinating Committee of the Site (CoCoSi) developed an emergency plan based on three priorities: aid to victims of attacks (guards, staff, population), urgent reconstruction of basic infrastructure, and support for joint-operations (FARDC-ICCN) to regain control of the Reserve. Through UNESCO’s Rapid Response Facility (RRF) programme, financial aid was granted for the implementation of the reconstruction plan by the NGO partners at the site, Gillman International Conservation and WCS. A request for International Assistance Request for Emergency assistance under the World Heritage Fund, the main objective of which is to restore surveillance patrols and purchase equipment, was also approved by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee for an amount of USD 75,000 in December 2012.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee express its deep concern about the dire security situation faced by the Okapi Wildlife Reserve staff and local populations, and which hampers conservation activities and the implementation of corrective measures. They note the total loss of control of the south of the Reserve and the buffer zone, invaded by Simba rebels, which has resulted in increased poaching and the reopening of artisanal mining sites. They also note that the presence of many military personnel and increased immigration in the property, indicated by the State Party, have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the important efforts of the Managing Authority to regain control of the Reserve, often risking the lives of its staff. However, they consider that it is difficult for the guards to face heavily armed groups and that the lack of material support (arms and munitions) endangers their lives. They recall the commitments made by the Congolese Government in the Kinshasa Declaration in January 2011 in regard to site safety and strengthening the operational capacity of ICCN, notably the provision of arms and munitions for monitoring activities.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the results of inventories of 2010/2011 show that the degradation of the OUV continues despite the considerable efforts of the managing authority to initiate the Emergency Plan for the Reserve, and they consider that the insecurity will further aggravate the situation. They therefore recommend maintaining the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and propose to reinstate the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7A.8

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.7 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),
  3. Expresses its deep concern at the continued deterioration of the security situation in the property, the total loss of control of the southern part and its buffer zone, invaded by Simba rebels, increased poaching and the reopening of artisanal mining sites and considers that if this situation continues it is likely to destroy all progress made over the past five years;
  4. Notes with concern the results of the 2010/2011 inventories that show that the degradation of the Outstanding Universal Value continues and that the impact of the current insecurity may further aggravate the situation;
  5. Expresses its appreciation to the field staff of the site who, at great risk, continue efforts for the conservation of the site, and notes that the guards continue to lack the necessary material support, arms and munitions,  to deal with heavily armed poachers;
  6. Recalls the commitments made by the Congolese Government in the Kinshasa Declaration in January 2011, notably securing World Heritage properties and the strengthening of the operational capacity of the Congolese wildlife authority ICCN, including the provision of material support, arms and munitions for monitoring activities;
  7. Requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the corrective measures and the emergency plan of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve to halt the degradation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and begin its rehabilitation;
  8. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission, as soon as the security situation permits, to assess the state of conservation of the property and progress in the implementation of corrective measures, to evaluate the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, and if necessary to revise the corrective measures and their implementation schedule accordingly, taking into account the evolution of the situation on the ground;
  9. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, including an update on progress made in the implementation of corrective measures, for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;
  10. Decides to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  11. Also decides to retain the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7A.9

 The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 36 COM 7A.36 adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),
  3. Welcomes the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee, a framework agreement with the Mining Cadaster and the progress made in the establishment of the Trust Fund, also known as "Okapi Fund";
  4. Notes with concern the worsening of insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage properties in this region;
  5. Reiterates its request to ensure the full implementation of the commitments made in the Declaration of Kinshasa, and the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan, and requests the State Party to allocate to the inter-ministerial committee, the necessary technical and financial means to ensure adequate monitoring;
  6. Expresses its deep concern about the Hydrocarbons Code project that could make possible oil exploration activities in the protected areas and the World Heritage properties, contrary to the commitments made by the State Party in the Kinshasa Declaration and urges the State Party to ensure that the status of protection of World Heritage properties is maintained;
  7. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to review its mining and oil exploration and exploitation permits to exclude World Heritage properties, and not to grant them within the boundaries of the DRC properties, and recalls the incompatibility of mining and oil exploration and exploitation with World Heritage status;
  8. Also warmly welcomes the support of donor countries to the conservation of the five DRC properties, and calls on the international community to continue its support in the implementation of the corrective measures and the Strategic Action Plan to create the conditions necessary for the rehabilitation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the five properties of the DRC;
  9. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a detailed report on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, the status of mining and oil exploration and exploitation permits which affect the World Heritage properties, as well as on the Hydrocarbons Code, for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.

Decision Adopted: 37 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-13/37.COM/7A, WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add.
  2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: