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 in 2009 and revised in 2014, see page  https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5983

Corrective measures identified

Adopted in 2009 and revised in 2014, see page  https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5983   

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5983 

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: USD 1,450,000, from the United Nations Foundation (UNF), Government of Belgium, the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPF)

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and May 2006: UNESCO World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2009 and 2014: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

  • Extensive poaching of large mammals, in particular elephants
  • Mining activities inside the property
  • Uncontrolled migration into the villages located within the property
  • Illegal timber exploitation in the Ituri Forest, which might affect the property in the near future
  • 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 2017

On 13 February 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents/. Progress in implementing the corrective measures is provided as follows:

The State Party also listed planned activities for 2017, which include a gradual recruitment of 200 new guards, open two guard posts in the eastern part of the property to increase staff presence, and develop a Conflict Transformation Strategy.

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

On 13 February 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the progress made in the implementation of Decision 40 COM 7A.42. This report is available at the following address https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/41com/documents/#state_of_conservation_reports and contains the information below:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The continued insecurity in the region and the on-going presence of armed rebel groups, who are preventing the patrol teams from gaining full access to the property, and the reported resultant decrease in surveillance coverage compared to 2015, are of significant concern as they complicate the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. However, the surveillance coverage reported for 2015 (68%) is inconsistent with the figure reported to the 40th session of the Committee (37%). Noting that this is the second consecutive year in which inconsistencies have been noted, future State Party reports should ensure accuracy in the data presented or provide clarifications on any changes.

Although the Committee had requested the State Party to recruit additional guards for patrolling, this appears not to have been achieved and as a result, there continues to be a shortage of guards to ensure sufficient coverage of the property. Expanding patrol coverage to halt poaching is critical but the security situation firstly needs to be improved. Adequate provision of financial and material resources is required to regain control of the site. In that regard, the initiation of joint operations between ICCN and FARDC using SMART technology is welcomed.

The State Party recalls the closure of large mines in 2015, and the undertaking of sensitization efforts to address the issue of artisanal mining in 2016. However, it still remains unclear if any further mining permits remain that encroach on the property. Any overlapping permits need to be cancelled and illegal occupants evacuated as a matter of urgency. According to third party information, it has been reported that the majority of gold and diamond mines inside the property have been reoccupied and have resumed operation, and additional new mines have been opened. The World Heritage Centre has requested comments from the State Party in this regard but no comments were received at the time of drafting this report.

The closure of RN4 at night is a welcome progress to reduce traffic within the property, but road use needs to be monitored to ensure compliance and effectiveness. In line with the corrective measures, other mechanisms to further limit road use need to be implemented, such as setting up a toll system. The State Party does not however provide any updates on the increasing number of inhabitants around the villages in pursuit of artisanal mining, and the measures taken to address this. Third party information has indicated significant expansions for example in the village of Badengaido.. As requested by the Committee (40 COM 7A.39), the impacts of the significant increase in inhabitants in the villages along RN4 on the land use around the villages need to be evaluated, but no update is provided in this regard. The World Heritage Centre has also requested comments from the State Party in this regard and no comments were received at the time of drafting this report.

The establishment of integral conservation zones in the property is appreciated but the extended delay in finalizing the Management Plan for the property is noted with concern. Progress is noted in improving communication between stakeholders on security issues and towards preparing a zoning plan for the forest areas adjacent to the property. 

No information was provided by the State Party with regards to the attainment of the indicators of the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR).

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

The allocation of arms and ammunitions for the two properties, Garamba and Virunga National Parks, is an important effort on the part of the State Party; however, insecurity persists and is becoming more serious in the four properties located in the eastern part of the DRC. Technical and financial means must be made available to the ICCN to secure all the World Heritage properties and their surroundings.

The years 2016 and 2017 were dramatic for the ICCN staff and FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Eleven guards lost their lives and many others were seriously injured during attacks carried out against the National Parks of Garamba (2 victims), Virunga (5 victims) and Kahuzi Biega (3 victims). A guard was also killed at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in May 2017. It is recommended that the Committee condemn this violence and address its condolences to the families of the guards and the soldiers killed during operations for the protection of the properties.

The delay incurred in the deployment of the CorPPN contingent is unfortunate. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to provide human and financial means to the CorPPN to render it operational and that it also requests the State Party to do its utmost to implement, in conformity with the Kinshasa Declaration (January 2011), and restore security conditions to enable the ICCN staff to carry out their mission.

With regard to the issue of petroleum exploration and exploitation projects, the State Party notes that no petroleum activity has been observed in the Virunga National Park. No information has been provided as concerns the petroleum interests at the Salonga National Park, expressed by the State Party during the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission (see point 10 of Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A). It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to officially confirm the definite cancellation of the petroleum concession overlapping the Virunga National Park and to clarify the situation as regards its petroleum interest in the Salonga National Park.

The efforts of the State Party to mobilize major funding for the DRC properties are favourably welcomed. Important progress has been achieved in organizing the Trust Fund for the Protected Areas of the DRC. Nevertheless, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to take legal measures by adopting the necessary decree to render operational the FOCON Fund; these provisions will enable the properties of the DRC to benefit from substantial financial resources.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7A.12

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7A.42, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and reiterating the need to implement the Kinshasa Declaration adopted in 2011,
  3. Condemns the violence perpetrated against the guards and soldiers killed during operations for the protection of the World Heritage properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), addresses its most sincere condolences to their families and expresses its very deep concern as regards the worsening security situation in the properties located in the eastern part of the DRC;
  4. Regrets the delay incurred in the establishment of the Corps responsible for security in the National Parks and Protected Areas (CorPPN) and requests the State Party to provide it, rapidly, with human and financial resources to enable the deployment of contingents to establish security within the properties;
  5. Expresses again its utmost concern as regards the intention of the State Party to officially address the World Heritage Centre to request an IUCN advisory mission to discuss the petroleum issue in the Virunga National Park;
  6. Reiterates with insistence its request to the State Party to cancel the petroleum exploration concession encroaching on the Virunga National Park and to clarify the situation concerning its petroleum interest in Salonga National Park, expressed by the State Party during the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission, and reiterates its position according to which all mineral, petroleum and gas exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, policy supported by the commitments made by industry leaders, such as Shell and Total, not to undertake such activities within World Heritage properties;
  7. Congratulates the State Party for its efforts to mobilize sustainable funding and notes with appreciation the substantial support provided to the properties of the DRC by the donors;
  8. Also congratulates the State Party for the major progress achieved in finalizing the creation of the Trust Fund for the protected areas in the DRC, entitled « Okapi Fund for Conservation – FOCON » and also requests the State Party to take all the necessary legal provisions to render it operational without delay;
  9. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, a detailed report on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, on the security situation in the properties, on the status of the petroleum exploration and exploitation concessions that overlap the World Heritage properties, for examination by the Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7A.9

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7A.41 and 40 COM 7A.39, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
  3. Expresses its deepest concern over continued insecurity around the property, especially in the south, that has led to a reported decrease in surveillance coverage in the reporting period;
  4. Reiterates its request to the State Party to prioritize efforts to further expand the patrol coverage and regain control of the property to halt poaching and the deterioration of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, including through the recruitment of additional guards and the adequate provision of financial and material resources;
  5. Welcomes the initiation of joint operations between the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) to patrol targeted areas within the property using SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) technology;
  6. Appreciates the closure of the RN4 road at night to reduce traffic within the property, but requests the State Party to monitor compliance and effectiveness, and to implement additional mechanisms to further mitigate the impacts of road use, and also reiterates its request to the State Party to evaluate the impacts of the increasing local populations on land use around the villages along the RN4;
  7. Reiterating its concern about rebel groups encouraging the reopening of artisanal mining sites, and that the cause of increasing immigrants in the villages along the RN4 is closely linked to mining, also requests the State Party to provide an update on the measures taken to mitigate the threat, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to provide information on the remaining mining permits overlapping with the property and to ensure their cancellation;
  8. Also appreciates the establishment of integral conservation zones in the property but notes with concern the extended delay in finalizing the Management Plan for the property and further requests the State Party to expedite its finalization rapidly;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to provide details on the data collected through the application of the SMART technology in order to enable an assessment of the illegal activities and poaching/wildlife trade, and their impacts on the OUV of the property and an assessment of progress achieved towards the targets defined in the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018;
  11. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  12. Also decides to retain Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 41 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/17/41.COM/7A, WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add and WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add.2),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: