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

 

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

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4338

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4338

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4338

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 253,560
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,731,000 from the United Nations Foundation and the Governments of : Italy, Belgium and Spain, and the French-speaking Community of Belgium as well as the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) 

 

Previous monitoring missions

April 1996: World Heritage Centre reactive monitoring mission; March 2006: World Heritage Centre monitoring mission; August 2007: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reinforced monitoring mission; December 2010: World Heritage Centre reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

A joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited the property from 5 to 14 March 2014. The secretariat of the Ramsar Convention also participated in the mission. The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 1 February 2014. Both reports are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents.

Since the 2010 mission, the insecurity in the area has greatly affected the implementation of the corrective measures and a total of 16 park rangers were killed in action. While there has been some improvement following the defeat of the M23 rebels in November 2013, the fact that the Director of the Park was wounded in an ambush early April 2014 demonstrates that insecurity remains an issue.

The mission confirmed that the main threats affecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property persist:

The mission was informed that elements of the military as well as armed groups are involved in most of the illegal activities.

In terms of oil exploration, the following developments were noted:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

While the security situation has improved somewhat since the defeat of the M23 rebels, at least 9 different armed groups remain active in and around the property. While further military operations are planned to curb these groups, these operations in the short term could lead to renewed violence and insecurity. It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee express its condolences to the families of park rangers who were killed in action.

While staff of the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) has been struggling to implement the corrective measures at the risk of their lives, progress since the 2010 mission has been limited. The main problem is the limited support ICCN is receiving from the Government to address the threats: there continue to be problems with involvement of the military in various illegal activities such as charcoal making, poaching and illegal fishing and local politicians have continued to incite local communities to invade the park. The State Party has also approved oil exploration inside the property. It is therefore recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to abide by the commitments made in the Kinshasa Declaration.

The fact that the State Party is pushing ahead with oil exploration inside the property and that the Minister for Hydrocarbons has announced that if economically viable oil reserves are found inside the property, exploitation will go ahead, is of extreme concern. Any oil exploitation inside the property would seriously affect its integrity. It is recommended that the Committee welcome the statement by TOTAL that it will not explore for oil inside natural World Heritage sites and reiterate its appeal to the company SOCO to make a similar commitment.

Given the threats and the limited progress in implementing the corrective measures, the mission concluded that the OUV of the site remains extremely threatened. However, as no single species has been lost, and in particular given the connectivity with the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, the potential for recovery is still present. Nevertheless, it will be important to urgently address the threats to the integrity of the site and in particular halt new encroachment and ensure that no oil exploitation goes ahead inside the property. In order to achieve this, updated corrective measures are proposed in the draft decision. The revised timeframe proposed for their implementation is 2020. Given the urgent threats to the OUV, it is recommended that the Committee retain to property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7A.37

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7A.4 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes with appreciation the efforts deployed by the park staff to continue to ensure the conservation of the property despite life threatening conditions, and expresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed in operations for the protection of the property;
  4. Reiterates its deep concern about the fact that the State Party has not revised the authorizations for petroleum exploration in the Park, as requested in its previous Decisions, as well as about the commencement of oil exploration activities in Lake Edward and the statement by the Minister for Hydrocarbons that the government envisages to proceed with petroleum exploitation inside the property if economically viable oil reserves are confirmed;
  5. Reiterates its request to the State Party to cancel all the oil exploitation permits granted within the property and reiterates its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  6. Congratulates the TOTAL Company for its commitment not to explore or exploit for oil or gas in sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, a principle to which the Shell Company had already subscribed;
  7. Takes note of the press statement of SOCO not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the DRC Government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status, not to conduct any operations in any other World Heritage site and to ensure that any current of future operations in buffer zones adjacent to World Heritage sites do not jeopardize the Outstanding Universal Value for which these sites are listed;
  8. Reiterates its request to States Parties to the Convention to do their utmost to ensure that the mining or petroleum companies established on their territories do not damage World Heritage properties, in accordance with Article 6 of the Convention ;
  9. Notes with concern that while the security situation has improved slightly there is still the presence of different armed groups active in and around the property, resulting in limited progress in the implementation of the corrective measures due to the instability in the region;
  10. Expresses its utmost concern about the limited support park staff is receiving from the Government to address the threats to the property, in particular the continued involvement of the military in various illegal activities such as charcoal making, poaching and illegal fishing, and the lack of support from the authorities to address encroachment on the property, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to implement the commitments made by the Congolese Government in the Kinshasa Declaration of January 2011;
  11. Requests for a clear and written commitment from SOCO, or any other oil company, not to explore nor exploit oil and gas in any World Heritage site, including Virunga National Park;
  12. Urges the State Party to implement the corrective measures as updated by the 2014 joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission:
    1. Cancel all the oil exploitation permits granted within the property,
    2. Take all necessary measures to stop the involvement of the Congolese Army and Navy in the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the park, in particular poaching, charcoal making and fishing,
    3. Strengthen the efforts to disarm all armed groups operating in and around the property,
    4. Take measures at the highest level to enable the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) to continue without political interference, the peaceful evacuation of illegal occupants from the property,
    5. Continue law enforcement focusing on priority areas, and pursue activities to re-establish a system of good governance for fishing activities on Lake Edward,
    6. Pursue communication and awareness-raising actions targeted towards the authorities and local populations,
    7. Pursue actions to eliminate all production of charcoal within the property, and promote alternative energy sources, in particular the development of small scale hydropower outside the property;
  13. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, a detailed report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property, including an update of the progress accomplished in the implementation of the corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
  14. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism of the property;
  15. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7A.42

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7A.9, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013) and reaffirming the need to implement the Kinshasa Declaration adopted in 2011,
  3. Notes that the security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has improved since the last session but that it still remains unstable and commends the courage of the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) and its efforts to protect the World Heritage properties;
  4. Urges the State Party to guarantee the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the Kinshasa Declaration and to ensure the execution of the Strategic Plan of Action and requests the State Party to approve the decree to officialise the creation of an inter-ministerial committee and allocate the necessary technical and financial means to ensure adequate monitoring in the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration;
  5. Reiterates its utmost concern as regards the Hydrocarbons Code that could make possible oil exploitation activities in protected areas and also urges the State Party to ensure that the protection status of the World Heritage properties be maintained;
  6. Also requests the State Party to review the mining and oil exploration and exploitation titles to exclude the World Heritage properties and not to grant further titles within the boundaries of the properties of the DRC and recalls its position that mining and oil exploration is incompatible with World Heritage status;
  7. Congratulates the TOTAL Company for its commitment not to carry out oil or gas exploration and exploitation activities in properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, a principle to which the Shell Company has already subscribed;
  8. Takes note of the press statement of SOCO not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the DRC Government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status, not to conduct any operations in any other World Heritage site and to ensure that any current or future operations in buffer zones adjacent to World Heritage sites do not jeopardize the Outstanding Universal Value for which these sites are listed;
  9. Warmly welcomes the support of donor countries in the conservation of the five DRC properties, and calls on the international community to continue to provide support in the implementation of the corrective measures and the Strategic Action Plan to create the necessary conditions for the rehabilitation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the five DRC properties;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, a detailed report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, the situation regarding mining and oil exploration and exploitation titles that encroach World Heritage properties, and the Hydrocarbons Code, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

Decision Adopted: 38 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-14/38.COM/7A and WHC-14/38.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: