1.         Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 280)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (vii)(ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1999-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/list/280/documents/. However, core indicators of the results of the inventory of flagship species still needs to be quantified.

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4575

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

In progress

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1985-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 149,900
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 320,000 from the United Nations Foundation and the Governments of Italy and Belgium 

Previous monitoring missions

2007, 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 3 March 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/documents/ (pages 57 – 74).

Conservation activities have been hampered by the outbreak of Ebola close to the property, which resulted in a 4 month shut down of all activities to minimize the risk of spread of the virus.

Following progress is reported in the implementation of the Corrective Measures:

The management plan is still not validated but implementation is nevertheless underway and management tools have improved with the development of a business plan, an operational plan and regular monitoring of implementation. Funding remains an important issue especially with the expiration of EU funding through RAPAC – (Réseau des aires protégées d'Afrique central-Central Africa network of Protected Area)

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

“Operation Bonobo”, which started in 2011, seems to be gradually bringing tangible results in terms of securing the property, restoring the authority of the State, and in particular of the park management authority, and curbing the widespread poaching by armed gangs and uncontrolled military.

At the same time, important efforts are underway to put in place basic park management operations. It deserves to be reminded that the challenges are enormous, given that Salonga National Park is one of the largest and one of the most remote terrestrial World Heritage properties, lacking basic management infrastructure. The on-going efforts of the State Party, in cooperation with its financial and technical partners, need to be welcomed. At the same time, it is clear that time and significant financial resources will be needed to build up the management of the property. For the moment, the property is totally dependent on donor funding to cover even its running costs. Given the challenges, it is crucial that donors ensure a long-term engagement in order to build up management capacity and infrastructure and support the ecological restoration of the property. The State Party should also gradually take more financial responsibility to cover recurrent costs and a sustainable financing mechanism should be developed.

It is unfortunate that the inventory had to be postponed again, as a result of the Ebola outbreak. The results will be crucial to understand how far the wildlife populations have been eroded, to quantify the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and to estimate the timeframe needed for the ecological restoration of the property. It will also provide more insight in how far the poaching has been brought under control.

The report states that no progress was made in securing a biological corridor between the two components of the property, but no further information is provided. The creation of this corridor is important in terms of the integrity of the property. With human populations moving into the area, its establishment is urgent.

The start of the socio-economic studies in the Yaelima communities is a positive development and should provide useful data to develop a strategy on how to address the issue of these resident communities in the park, in a participatory way.  In particular, it will be important to quantify the impact of their subsistence activities on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and get a better understanding of the population dynamics in the villages. The dialogue started with the Kitawala settlements is also a positive development. The progress made on the participatory boundary demarcation will further diminish tensions with the communities.

It is recommended that the Committee express its utmost concern that, once more, the State Party didn’t provided information on the status of oil exploration and exploitation projects, in spite of the repeated requests by the Committee (36 COM 7A.7, 37 COM 7A.7, 38 COM 7A.40) and firmly reiterate its demand to provide the information and to annul any concessions, which would overlap with the property.

It is also recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and to continue the application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism.


General Decision on the properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Current conservation issues

On 17 February 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the implementation of Decision 38 COM 7A.42, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/136/documents/ (pages 7– 9). The report notes the following progress in the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration:

The report further notes that the new Hydrocarbons Code was adopted by both the Parliament and the Senate, but will still be discussed in the mixed Committee of the two Chambers, allowing for further discussion on Article 160, which foresees the possibility of degazetment of protected areas to allow for oil exploitation.

In relation to the oil exploration in Virunga, it is noted that the Government is planning to submit to the World Heritage Centre a proposal with “options for exception mechanisms for further negotiation”. This seems to be in line with the reply by the Prime Minister to the letter of 8 January by the Delegation Heads of the European Union, World Bank, UNESCO and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ambassadors of Germany and Canada, where he pointed out that in the event the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would want to go forward with oil exploitation, it would seek a minor boundary modification (see also report on Virunga National Park, item 4 of Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The statement by the Vice Prime Minister of DRC reiterating the commitment of the Government to implement the Kinshasa Declaration should be welcomed. In particular, it is encouraging that concrete measures have been taken to implement one of the most important elements of the Declaration, namely to create the conditions for implementation of the corrective measures by securing the sites.

The intention to create a special anti-poaching brigade is also noted. Widespread poaching is without doubt the single most important threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of all five properties. Results of the different inventories clearly show that since the start of the conflict, the biodiversity values of the properties have been seriously affected and their populations of emblematic species, such as Northern White Rhino, Okapi, Grauer’s Gorilla, Bonobo and Elephant, were severely reduced. Decisive action is needed to turn the tide. Recently, the increasing demand for ivory has in particular further increased pressure on the remaining Elephant populations. It is estimated that the DRC Elephant population, most of which is living in the World Heritage properties, has dwindled by over 90%, from more than 100 000 at the start of the 1980s to less than 10 000 today. Securing the sites and strengthening anti-poaching efforts are important, but additional efforts will be needed in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to identify and take legal action against the criminal networks involved in the illegal traffic. Efforts to reduce demand in consumer countries are also needed.

The reported efforts to ensure that the mining cadastre uses accurate mapping information of the properties to avoid the attribution of mining concessions overlapping with the properties also responds to a long standing demand of the Committee. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its requests to the State Party to annul all existing permits, which overlap with any of the properties.

It is also recommended that the Committee express its utmost concern about Article 160 of the new Code for Hydrocarbons, which foresees the possibility of degazetting protected areas, including World Heritage properties, as well as the statement made by the Prime Minister of DRC that the State Party might seek a boundary modification of Virunga National Park to allow for oil exploration activities to proceed. These are in clear contradiction to the Kinshasa Declaration, which committed to uphold the protection status of the properties. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its position on this issue, as expressed in previous decisions.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.7

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.40,adopted during its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Takes note of the fact that “Operation Bonobo” seems to be gradually bringing tangible results in terms of securing the property, restoring the authority of the park management and curbing the widespread poaching by armed gangs and uncontrolled military;
  4. Welcomes the significant efforts of the State Party, in cooperation with its financial and technical partners, to put in place basic park management operations and implement the corrective measures, taking into account the significant challenges related to the size of the property, its remoteness and its poorly developed infrastructure;
  5. Calls on the donor community to ensure a long-term engagement, in order to build up management capacity and infrastructure of the property and support its ecological restoration, and urges the State Party to take more financial responsibility to cover recurrent costs and speed up the efforts to set up a sustainable financing mechanism;
  6. Requests the State Party to continue to implement the corrective measures, as updated by the 2012 reactive monitoring mission, to rehabilitate the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  7. Reiterates its request to the State Party to undertake inventories of flagship species to quantify the state of the OUV of the property and the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), as well as to establish a realistic timeframe for its achievement;
  8. Notes the lack of progress in securing a biological corridor between the two components of the property, and also requests the State Party to increase its efforts to ensure the ecological continuum between the two components of the property in order to sustain its long term integrity;
  9. Expresses its utmost concern that the State Party, despite repeated requests at its 36th, 37th and 38th sessions, has not provided detailed information regarding the oil exploration and exploitation projects in the central basin that risk encroaching onto the property, and urges the State Party to provide this information immediately and to annul any concessions, which would overlap with the property;
  10. Reiterates its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  11. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  12. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism;
  13. Also decides to retain Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.9

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.42, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014) and reaffirming the need to implement the Kinshasa Declaration adopted in 2011,
  3. Welcomes the statement by the Vice Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reiterating the commitment of the State Party to implement the Kinshasa Declaration, as well as the decision by the National Superior Defence Council to instruct the army to strengthen security in the properties;
  4. Notes with appreciation the efforts to ensure that the mining cadastre uses accurate mapping information of the properties to avoid that mining concessions attributed overlap with the properties, and reiterates its requests to the State Party to cancel all existing permits, which overlap with any of the five properties;
  5. Considers that widespread poaching is the single most significant threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of all five properties, also welcomes the intention to create a special anti-poaching brigade, but notes that additional efforts will be needed, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to identify and take legal action against the criminal networks involved in the illegal traffic of species of fauna and their products, in particular ivory;
  6. Calls upon the States Parties which are transit and destination countries for ivory and rhino horn, to support the State Party to halt the illegal trade in ivory and other illegal wildlife products, in particular through the implementation of the CITES;
  7. Reiterates its utmost concern about the Hydrocarbons Code that would make oil exploitation activities in protected areas possible, and about the statement by the Prime Minster of DRC that the State Party might seek a boundary modification of Virunga National Park to allow for oil exploration activities to proceed;
  8. Also reiterates its requests to the State Party to ensure that the protection status of the World Heritage properties be maintained and to annul all oil exploration concessions overlapping with any of the five properties, and reiterates its position that mining, oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  9. Urges the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the commitments made in the Kinshasa Declaration and to ensure the execution of the Strategic Plan of Action, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to approve the decree to formalize 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;
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, a detailed report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, the situation regarding mining, oil and gas exploration and exploitation titles that overlap with World Heritage properties, and the Hydrocarbons Code, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Decision Adopted: 39 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-15/39.COM/7A and WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: