1.         Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 137)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (x)

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

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 113,870
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1999

Summary of previous deliberations: The Committee and the Bureau have expressed serious concerns with regard to the state of conservation of these sites at their annual sessions, as the eastern part of the country has become engulfed in war since 1994. Hopes for peace in the latter half of 1998 were short-lived as renewed fighting spread to all parts of eastern DRC. The sites have been looted and pillaged and there are serious threats of poaching of endangered fauna, particularly to the sub-species of the northern white rhinoceros unique to Garamba. At its last session (Kyoto, 1998), IUCN informed the Committee that most parts of eastern DRC are controlled by rebel forces and it was unlikely that missions to any one of the four sites would be feasible in the near future. The Committee had requested the Centre and IUCN to consult with IGCP and ICCN to estimate the cost of paying allowances to staff at Virunga as an interim measure and submit a proposal for emergency assistance for the consideration of the twenty-third session of the Bureau. The Committee had also suggested that the Centre and IUCN transmit its concerns on the state of conservation of the four sites to international and national NGOs and urge them to disseminate information regarding the Committee’s concerns among the general public as well as specific target groups like the military.

New information: A representative of the International Ranger Federation (IRF), who visited Garamba from 27 February to 5 March 1999 found that resident guards appear to have forged a working relationship with rebel forces controlling the area. Significant poaching threats prevail in the region and about 16 encounters with poachers were reported each month. Guards detected one carcass of a poached rhino but also reported regular sightings of rhinos, including calves. Despite shortages in fuel supplies, vehicles, communication equipment and ammunition and the high-risk security situation, resident guards seem to be patrolling the area to the extent possible.

ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservatin de la Nature) has provided a proposal to the Centre for paying a selected number of staff at Virunga an allowance of US$ 25-35 per month per person. The Centre is currently requesting clarification concerning the reasons for paying allowances to only some staff and not others and the names and addresses of international NGOs who would be responsible for delivering the allowances to site staff. In addition, the Centre is discussing procedural details that would ensure accountability and satisfy administrative and financial regulations of UNESCO for establishing contracts and disbursement of funds.

International conservation NGOs and representatives of other concerned national, regional and international organizations met in Naivasha, Kenya, from 12 to 16 April 1999. Staff representing each of the four sites and a representative of UNESCO-MAB participated in the seminar. Detailed findings of the meeting has been received by a Centre staff member during a meeting with representatives of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and the UN Foundation on 28 April 1999 in Washington DC, USA. The UNESCO representative who attended the meeting has also submitted a written report to the Centre. These reports have been transmitted to IUCN for review. The Centre and IUCN, in cooperation with the State Party and concerned international NGOs are in the process of elaborating a set of recommendations for submission to the consideration of the twenty-third session of the Bureau. The Centre has been informed that a delegation from the DRC comprising representatives of ICCN and each of the four sites expect to attend the twenty-third session of the Bureau

Action Required

The Bureau may wish to examine the set of recommendations to be jointly proposed by IUCN and the Centre at the time of its session and take the appropriate decisions thereupon.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1999

International assistance: Virunga National Park: US$ 20,000 for equipment under emergency assistance and US$ 9,500 for staff training. Garamba National Park: US$ 77,845 for equipment under emergency assistance and US$ 50,000 for equipment under technical co-operation. Kahuzi Biega National Park: US$ 44, 848 for equipment under technical co-operation. Okapi Wildlife Reserve – US$ 3,000 for the preparation of the nomination dossier of the site. At its twenty-first session (Naples, 1997), the Committee, in response to a request for emergency assistance of US$ 88,400 for the purchase of one four-wheel drive vehicle for each of the four sites, approved US$ 45,000 intended to benefit any two of the four sites. The two vehicles purchased by the Centre using the US$ 45,000 in early 1998 could not be delivered to the sites due to lack of security and have, since then, been in storage in Nairobi, Kenya. The Bureau, at its twenty-third ordinary session (5 –10 July 1999), requested the Centre to negotiate with the UN Resident Representative, and the WWF and UNESCO Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya, to transfer the two vehicles to Serengeti and Kilimanjaro National Parks of Tanzania. Following negotiations between the Centre, WWF, UNDP and the Kenyan authorities, it has been estimated that the costs of storage of the two vehicles in Kenya, for more than a year, and clearance and transport costs would total approximately US$ 20,000. As authorised by the twenty-third session of the Bureau, the Chairperson approved US$ 20,000 to pay for the storage, clearance and transport charges. The Centre, in co-operation with WWF is in the process of arranging for the transfer of the two vehicles to Tanzania.

Progress in this regard will reported at the time of the twenty-third session of the Committee (please refer to paragraphs IV.3 and VII.9 of Working Document WHC­99/CONF.209/4 for further details).

At its last session (Kyoto, Japan, 1998), the Committee had requested the Centre and IUCN to consult with ICCN and conservation NGOs working in the DRC and estimate the cost of paying allowances to staff at Virunga National Park as an interim measure and submit a proposal for emergency assistance for consideration by the twenty-third session of the Bureau in 1999. The conservation NGOs, ICCN, concerned bilateral organisations (GTZ (Germany)), IUCN and UNESCO met in April 1999 (in Naivasha, Kenya) and again at thetime of the twenty-third session of the Bureau in July 1999, to discuss the state of conservation of the World Heritage sites of DRC and the implementation of the recommendation made by the last session of the Committee. Discussions during these two meetings revealed that staff in all the four World Heritage sites in Danger urgently needed assistance. The Director-General of ICCN informed the twenty-third session of the Bureau that his office in Kinshasa no longer has direct access to the four sites and requested the Bureau and the Committee to help the staff in the four sites by providing assistance through the conservation NGOs and other partners who had field presence in the four sites. In response to requests submitted by ICCN in co-operation with the conservation NGOs and other partners, the Bureau approved a total sum of US$ 105,000 for the four sites. These funds are being disbursed via contracts established with conservation NGOs and partners as follows:

(i)          World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - Virunga National Park to pay, for the period of six months between July and December 1999, salaries of 500 persons at the Rwindi and the Mutsora Field Stations and salary supplements to selected staff who are active in anti-poaching surveillance operations (US$ 35,000);

(ii)        International Rhino Foundation (IRF) - Garamba National Park to pay, for the period of six months between July and December 1999, salaries of approximately 238 persons and additional salary supplements to selected staff who are active in anti-poaching surveillance operations (US$ 30,000);

(iii)      To the GTZ(Germany)/ICCN Project – Kahuzi Biega National Park to purchase equipment essential for patrolling and surveillance operations of guards; i.e. 100 patrolling gear, 8 walkie-talkies, 15 large and 15 small tents and local travel, transport and miscellaneous expenses (US$ 20,000); and

(iv)      Gilman International Conservation (GIC) -Okapi Faunal Reserve for staff training and guard camp construction activities (US$ 20,000).

Progress with regard to the implementation of these projects will be reported at the time of the twenty-third session of the Committee.

Summary of previous deliberations:

Twenty-second session of the Committee – paragraph number VII.4. Twenty-third session of the Bureau – paragraph numbers IV.3 and VII.19.

New information: A letter dated 6 August 1999 addressed to the Director-General of UNESCO from the Chief of the Department of Rural Development of DRC, described the situation in the four sites as an ecological catastrophe due to intensive poaching of gorillas, elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, hippopotamus, okapis, rhinoceros and other species of wildlife and uncontrolled and systematic deforestation. Reports received by IUCN also confirm that poaching threats continue in all four sites; however, IUCN has received some reports that have observed some reduction in encounters between rangers and poachers in Garamba National Park over the last year. The Centre received from the UNESCO Office in New York a copy of a letter, dated 28 June 1999, from the Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the President of the UN Security Council (Security Council reference S/1999/733 of 29 June 1999). This letter denounced, amongst others, the violation of international environmental law and the threats posed to the protected areas of the DRC by war, particularly in the eastern parts of the country. The Centre in co-operation with UNESCO's Office for External Relations, will attempt to obtain information on the outcome of the deliberations of the Security Council on this subject and report to the Committee at the time of its twenty-third session.

As requested by the Bureau, the Centre and IUCN have co-operated with the Task Force, established at the meeting in Naivasha, Kenya, in April 1999, and comprising conservation NGOs, ICCN and the GTZ to develop a project for supporting the World Heritage sites of DRC despite the continuing period of armed conflict. The Task Force representatives, in consultation with the Centre, the UNESCO Division of Ecological Sciences and IUCN elaborated a 4-year project expected to cost about US$ 4 million. The project primarily focuses on: (a) specific and collaborative support to the four sites, including the payment of salaries and salary supplements linked to performance of anti-poaching and surveillance duties; (b) raising awareness and support of international and regional diplomatic and political communities dealing with conflict in DRC and in neighbouring countries to the conservation of the sites; (c) disseminating information of the critical role that the site staff is playing in the protection of the sites despite risks to their lives and property, and develop sustainable financing mechanisms to support the staff and the conservation of the sites; and (d) identify, document and disseminate lessons learnt in the conservation of the four sites in the DRC to improve preparedness of the international community to meet conservation problems of World Natural Heritage properties in regions of armed conflict. The project has been submitted by UNESCO to the consideration of the United Nations Foundation (UNF). The decision of the UNF Board of Governors on financing for the project will be known in early November 1999. If approved as requested, nearly US$ 3 of the US$ 4 million would derive from UNF sources with the rest being generated by Task Force members, UNESCO and IUCN via other sources. The Centre will report on the UNF Board’s decision on the project at the time of the twenty-third session of the Committee.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 23 BUR IV.A.3

The Committee and the Bureau have expressed serious concerns with regard to the state of conservation of these four sites at their annual sessions as the eastern parts of the country have become increasingly engulfed in war since 1994. Hopes for peace in the latter half of 1998 were short-lived as renewed fighting spread to all parts of eastern DRC.

The Bureau recalled that the Committee, at its last session (Kyoto, 1998), had requested the Centre and IUCN to consult with ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) and international conservation NGOs to estimate the cost of paying "motivational allowances" to staff at Virunga as an interim measure and submit a proposal for emergency assistance for the consideration of the twenty-third session of the Bureau. IUCN had informed the Committee that most of the eastern DRC is controlled by rebel forces. The Committee had suggested that the Centre and IUCN transmit its concerns on the state of conservation of the four sites to international and national NGOs and urge them to disseminate information regarding the Committee’s concerns among the general public as well as specific target groups like the military.

The Bureau was informed that a representative of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) had visited Garamba from 27 February to 5 March 1999 and found that resident guards appear to have forged a working relationship with rebel forces controlling the area. Significant poaching threats prevail in the region. Despite shortages in fuel supplies, vehicles, communications equipment and ammunition and the high-risk security situation, resident guards are patrolling the area to the extent possible.

The Bureau learned of the outcome of a seminar, held in Naivasha, Kenya, from 12 to 16 April 1999, which brought together ICCN, concerned international conservation NGOs (e.g. IRF, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund for Europe, Gilman International Conservation and WWF), GTZ (German Technical Co-operation), UNESCO and representatives of staff from all four sites to discuss future steps that could be taken for the conservation of the four sites. The seminar reached the following principal conclusions:

(i) populations of all flagship species, including the gorilla, elephant, northern white rhinoceros and okapi are endangered;

(ii) Kahuzi Biega and Virunga have suffered significant deforestation;

(iii) field equipment has been looted and available equipment is either inadequate or in poor condition;

(iv) Okapi and Kahuzi Biega are facing threats due to illegal mineral exploitation;

(v) lack of respect for conservation laws is widespread and is threatening the integrity of all four sites as well as the life of staff who have chosen to continue carrying on their duties; and

(vi) a two-pronged approach focusing on diplomatic and political actions at one level and direct support to encourage performance of conservation actions by staff resident in the sites at the other, is critical to ensure the survival of the sites until peace and security conditions become normalized in eastern parts of the DRC. The report of the Naivasha Seminar includes estimates of financial support necessary for providing salaries and allowances and equipment to resident staff in all four sites.

The Seminar resulted in the establishment of a Task Force comprising the consortium of NGOs, ICCN and GTZ. The Task Force members are in the process of approaching various donors to raise the necessary funds for paying salaries and allowances to staff and provide basic equipment for staff to carry out their day-to-day functions.  A project concept is being developed by this Task Force.

The Director General of ICCN addressed the Bureau on behalf of the Task Force and called upon the assistance of the Bureau and Committee for the conservation of the four sites. He informed the Bureau that in affirming its commitment to the Convention, his Government has decided to pay its dues for the years 1996, 1997 and 1998 to the World Heritage Fund despite the difficult economic and political conditions prevailing in his country.

 The Bureau called upon the Centre and IUCN to:

The Bureau agreed with the view expressed by IUCN that special efforts are needed to ensure the conservation of the four sites located in a zone of intense armed conflict. In addition, the Bureau endorsed IUCN's position that successful interventions to protect these four sites could provide important lessons that may be applicable elsewhere in the world for the protection World Heritage sites in times of armed conflict. The Bureau recommended that the Committee retain all of the four sites in the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Bureau also recalled that the two four-wheel drive vehicles purchased in 1998 for Kahuzi Biega and Garamba are still stored in Kenya since the two vehicles could not be delivered to the sites due to the on-going war in the eastern parts of the DRC. The Bureau was informed that a neighbouring State Party to the Convention (i.e. United Republic of Tanzania) has requested financial assistance for the purchase of two vehicles to strengthen protection of two of its World Heritage sites. The Bureau recommended that the Centre and IUCN discuss this matter with ICCN and Task Force representatives with a view to transferring the two vehicles currently stored in Kenya to the Tanzanian sites, and submit a proposal to effect this transfer for the consideration of the Bureau under the agenda item dealing with international assistance.

Decision Adopted: 23 BUR VII.19

The Bureau examined specific requests for international assistance and took the following decisions.

 

NATURAL HERITAGE

 

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - "Training for Nomination of Natural and Mixed Properties as World Heritage in Central Asia" (Training Assistance) - US$ 29,440 requested

The Bureau approved an amount of US$ 29,440 from the natural heritage training funds for this project, subject to the WWF Russia Programme (WWF-PRO) confirming, before 31 October 1999, that it has been successful in raising the balance of US$ 29,900 needed for the implementation of the project.

The Bureau also recommended that WWF-PRO submit to the World Heritage Centre, a list of organisations providing cash and in-kind contributions to meet the balance of US$ 29,900 needed for the project and a full list of the central Asian participants to be involved in the implementation of the project.

 

Regional - "Asia Pacific Training Workshop on Integrated Conservation and Development Planning: the role of Multilateral Agreements Related to Biological Diversity" (Training Assistance) - US$ 30,000 requested

The Bureau approved a sum of US$ 30,000 for this project and requested the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to negotiate with developed States Parties in Europe and North America to support the participation of their site managers and use the savings thus obtained to support as many site managers as possible from developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Bureau also recommended that preference be given to choosing managers of sites that have the twin designations of World Heritage and Biosphere Reserves, to the extent possible.

 

Democratic Republic Republic of Congo - "Support to Resident Staff in the World Heritage sites in Danger – Garamba, Kahuzi Biega and Virunga National Parks and the Okapi Faunal Reserve" (Emergency Assistance) - US$ 105,000 requested

The Bureau approved the sum of US$ 105,000 for paying staff salaries allowances, purchase of equipment and  undertaking training, construction of guard posts and monitoring activities benefiting the four sites.

The Bureau decided that US$ 105,000 shall comprise of the following budget components:

In addition the Bureau:

United Republic of Tanzania - "Strengthening Protection Infrastructure of Tanzanian World Heritage sites – Serengeti and Kilimanjaro National Parks" (Technical Co-operation) - US$ 50,000 requested

The Bureau requested the Centre to co-operate with the equipment purchase unit of UNESCO, in order to transfer the two vehicles, purchased in 1998 for two sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) but are currently stored in Mombassa, Kenya, to the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro National Parks of Tanzania.

The Bureau requested the Centre to cooperate with the UN Resident Co-ordinator’s Office as well as the UNESCO Office in Nairobi, and the Kenyan Government to request the Kenyan Government to waive vehicle-storage charges payable to the Ports authorities in Kenya and the cost of the transport of the vehicles to the United Republic of Tanzania.

In the event that such costs cannot be waived, the Bureau authorised the Chairperson to approve the amount needed to pay storage and transport charges, upon the submission of detailed invoices by the Centre, under the technical co-operation funds available for natural heritage projects in 1999.

 

 

CULTURAL HERITAGE

 

Cuba - "Training course in preventive conservation" (Training Assistance) - US$ 30,000 requested

The Bureau recalled that the Committee at its twenty-second session had set aside US$ 30,000 for a training activity  proposed by Cuba.

The Bureau examined a revised proposal for a training course in preventive conservation that had been prepared by Cuba in collaboration with an ICCROM expert.

Subsequently, the Bureau approved the implementation of this assistance for an amount of US$ 30,000 as proposed by Cuba.

 

Lithuania - "Vilnius Old Town Revitalization Programme" (Technical Co-operation) - US$ 30,000 requested

The Bureau thanked the Delegate of Italy for his generous offer and requested the Secretariat to pursue this matter urgently in close collaboration with the Permanent Delegations of Italy and Lithuania.

 

Syrian Arab Republic - «Establishing an overall management plan of Palmyre – 2nd phase» (Technical Co-operation) - US$ 30,000 requested

The Bureau recommended that the Committee approve an amount of US$ 20,000 from the 2000 budget of the World Heritage Fund.

The Bureau also recommended that, during the next mission, contacts be made with the funding sources to obtain the necessary resources for the implementation of this management plan.

 

 

Decision Adopted: 23 COM X.A.4

X.4 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Virunga National Park, Garamba National Park, Kahuzi Biega National Park, Okapi Wildlife Reserve

The Committee recalled the fact that at its last session (Kyoto, Japan, 1998) it had requested the Centre and IUCN to consult with ICCN and conservation NGOs working in the DRC and estimate the cost of paying allowances to staff at Virunga National Park as an interim measure, and submit a proposal for emergency assistance for consideration by the twenty-third session of the Bureau in 1999. The conservation NGOs, ICCN, concerned bilateral organisations (GTZ (Germany)), IUCN and UNESCO met in April 1999 (in Naivasha, Kenya), and at the time of the twenty-third session of the Bureau in July 1999. Discussions were held on the state of conservation of the World Heritage sites of DRC and the implementation of the recommendation made by the last session of the Committee. Discussions during these two meetings revealed that staff in all the four World Heritage sites in Danger urgently needed assistance. The Director-General of ICCN informed the twentythird session of the Bureau in July 1999 that his office in Kinshasa no longer has direct access to the four sites. He requested the Bureau and the Committee to help the staff in the four sites by providing assistance through the conservation NGOs and other partners who had field presence in the four sites. In response to requests submitted by ICCN in co-operation with the conservation NGOs and other partners, the Bureau approved a total sum of US$ 105,000 for the four sites. These funds are being disbursed via contracts established with UNESCO and ICCN's partners as follows:

(i) World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - Virunga National Park: to pay, for the period of six months between July and December 1999, salaries of 500 persons at the Rwindi and the Mutsora Field Stations and salary supplements to selected staff who are active in anti-poaching surveillance operations (US$ 35,000);

(ii) International Rhino Foundation (IRF) - Garamba National Park: to pay, for the period of six months between July and December 1999, salaries of approximately 238 persons and additional salary supplements to selected staff who are active in anti-poaching surveillance operations (US$ 30,000);

(iii) To the GTZ(Germany)/ICCN Project - Kahuzi Biega National Park: to purchase equipment essential for patrolling and surveillance operations of guards; i.e. 100 patrolling gear, 8 walkie-talkies, 15 large and 15 small tents and local travel, transport and miscellaneous expenses (US$ 20,000); and

(iv) Gilman International Conservation (GIC) -Okapi Faunal Reserve: for staff training and guard camp construction activities (US$ 20,000).

The Committee noted that the implementation of the abovementioned contracts are proceeding satisfactorily.

The Committee was pleased to learn that the support for the above-mentioned activities initiated by the request approved by the Bureau will be extended over a period of 4 years through a project, approved by the United Nations Foundation (UNF), for a sum of US$ 4,186,600 and entitled: "Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict: Protecting World Natural Heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo". UNF will provide US$ 2,895,912 as an outright contribution and co-operate with UNESCO and its partners to raise the balance of US$ 1,290,688 from alternative sources. The UNF project assures payment of allowances to significant numbers of guards and workers in the four sites for 4 years beginning in the year 2000. This would free the partners from costs that they have incurred thus far in paying those allowances. The partners have assured UNESCO and UNF that they will use the savings to assist ICCN to meet the costs of indemnities and other payments due to large numbers of staff who are due to retire from service in all four sites. The partners have informed the Centre that special arrangements for meeting the needs of retiring staff in the northern and central sectors of Virunga, commemorating its 75th anniversary as Africa's first national park in 2000, would be required.

UNESCO and ICCN designed and developed the project with the close co-operation of specialists from UNESCO's Division of Ecological Sciences, and their partners. The Centre will be the international manager of the project with technical support from the UNESCO Division of Ecological Sciences and IUCN. ICCN will ensure national level co-ordination of the project. Site level activities will be implemented through the partners. In addition, the project will provide, via the GTZ/ICCN Project staff, assistance to the fifth World Heritage site of the DRC, i.e. Salonga National Park,which has been included in the List of World Heritage in Danger by the current session of the Committee.

The Committee noted that the Centre and the UNESCO Division of Ecological Sciences participated at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, from 18 to 22 November 1999 to discuss the finalization of the UNF project document. The meeting was attended by all NGO partners, GTZ, ICCN and the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Environment of the DRC and representatives of staff of all the five World Heritage sites of the DRC. The Vice- Minister for the Environment of the DRC attended the last day of the meeting and was presented with the conclusions of the meeting. He said his Ministry will fully support the implementation of the UNF project and that ICCN would serve as the national coordinating body and will enable the work of the partners and UNESCO for delivering assistance provided by UNF directly to the sites.

The Committee was informed that representatives of staff from the four sites in Danger as well as Salonga provided reports on the state of conservation of the sites at the Nairobi meeting mentioned above. Ability of staff to undertake regular patrols and surveillance activities has improved in Okapi, Kahuzi Biega and Garamba and are more or less stable in Virunga and Salonga. The site representatives thanked the Committee for the assistance provided by the July 1999 session of the Bureau that is contributing significantly to raising staff morale and effectiveness of surveillance work. The guards and workers in the sites are eagerly awaiting the beginning of the implementation of the UNF project that would assure them a certain stability of working conditions over a 4-year period. Despite improvements or stabilisation in working conditions, the threats to the integrity of the five sites continue to prevail. These threats mainly arise from the presence of armed groups within the sites that deny accessibility to significant parts of the site to staff. These armed groups are under the influence of forces outside of the DRC but factions of the rebel movement in DRC are also active in some sites. Return to normalcy cannot be assured until such armed groups allow staff to patrol and survey all parts of the sites under consideration. Several reports received by the Centre and IUCN describe the situation in the sites in DRC as an ecological catastrophe and poaching on gorillas, elephants and other wildlife species appear to be intensive. However, IUCN has received other reports that have observed a reduction in encounters between rangers and poachers in Garamba National Park during 1999. IUCN, in response to the issue raised by the Delegate of Thailand regarding possible removal of one or more of the DRC sites from the World Heritage List, pointed out that detailed information to explore such options was not available at present. Following further interventions by the Delegate of Benin, the Centre and IUCN, the Committee agreed that it should provide all necessary support for the satisfactory implementation of the UNF project to fully explore the feasibility of restoring the sites in the DRC over the next four years.

The Committee took into account the message from representatives of site staff who were present at the Nairobi meeting, that the Committee appeal to all parties concerned with the on-going armed conflict in the eastern parts of DRC to respect the international status of World Heritage sites and create the necessary conditions for staff to carry out their duties and functions in an effective manner. Furthermore, the Committee was informed that site representatives and partners at the Nairobi meeting had requested that the Committee consider providing financial assistance to cover the cost of the implementation of some critical activities, i.e. a mission to DRC to explain to authorities in Kinshasa and in the regions where the sites are located about the international significance of the sites and the importance of the effective execution of the UNF project; paying staff, due to retire soon, in the central and northern sectors of Virunga, necessary allowances and ensuring their integration into the life of the local communities. These two activities need to be implemented as soon as possible and before the execution of the UNF-financed project that is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2000.

The Committee, while expressing its serious concerns regarding the threats facing the sites and retaining all four sites in the List of World Heritage in Danger, welcomed the international response to the protection of these sites. The Committee commended the dedication of the resident guards and workers to the protection of the sites and the UNF for its generous contribution over a 4-year period to meet basic needs of protection of these globally important sites suffering from the impacts of armed conflict. In addition, the Committee called upon the Centre, in co-operation with ICCN, partner NGOs, GTZ and IUCN to:

Furthermore the Committee,