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 in 2011, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4338
Revised in 2014, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5979

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 268,560
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,802,300 from the United Nations Foundation and the Governments of Italy, Belgium and Spain as well as the Rapid Response Facility (RRF)

Previous monitoring missions

April 1996 - March 2006 - December 2010: World Heritage Centre Reactive Monitoring mission; August 2007: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reinforced Monitoring mission; March 2014 : World Heritage Centre / IUCN / Ramsar 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 2017

On 13 February 2017, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents/. Progress accomplished is presented below:


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 insecurity caused by the presence of armed groups in the property and its surroundings continues to threaten the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and functioning of the property. Despite major efforts on the part of the ICCN and the joint interventions with the FARDC, the armed groups regularly attack the property and its staff and engage in diverse illegal activities (poaching, illicit fishing and production of charcoal). This insecurity, which affects most of the properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (see General Decision 41 COM 7A.12), has cost the life of five guards of Virunga in 2016. It is recommended that the Committee address its sincere condolences to the families of the guards who were killed in the exercise of their duties and that it expresses its deepest concern as to the aggravation of the security situation in the property, as well as in most of the other properties located in the eastern part of the DRC. It is also recommended that it reiterates its utmost concern concerning the implication of armed bands in the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the property that is affecting its integrity.

The improvement in management efficiency, the recruitment of new guards and the excellent collaboration between ICCN and the FARDC are warmly welcomed. However, the sectors under surveillance only represent 43% of the property and further efforts remain necessary to fully protect its OUV.

With regard to the issue of petroleum exploration and exploitation, the State Party notes that no petroleum activity has been observed in the property. Nevertheless, in its report on the General Decision on the DRC properties, the State Party indicates that it wishes to request officially an IUCN advisory mission to discuss the petroleum issue in the property. As regards the Ngaji petroleum block, located in the Ugandan part of Lake Edward, no new development has been observed in 2016. However, the Ugandan Permanent Delegation to UNESCO addressed a Verbal Note dated 10 February 2017 together with two press articles informing of the desire of the Ugandan authorities to re-advertise a call for tender for this this concession. In its response dated 1 March 2017, UNESCO indicated its concern as regards the possible reattribution of the petroleum block and recalled the Committee Decision 40 COM 7A.41. It is recommended that the Committee urges the States Parties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda to take a strong position and not authorize any petroleum exploration or exploitation in the Lake Edward region, due to the probable negative impacts of such an activity on the OUV of the property. It is also recommended that the Committee reiterate its position according to which petroleum exploration and exploitation is not compatible with World Heritage status.

The slight increase in the populations of key species (gorillas, hippopotamus and elephants) and the stabilization of encroachment in certain areas of the property are encouraging results. However, the demographic increase remains important and exercises strong pressure on the natural resources of the property. Further, the illegal exploitation of wood continues despite the alternatives proposed since many years, notably the hydro-electric power stations. Deforestation provoked by the production of charcoal remains one of the major threats to the integrity of the property.

Implementation activities in the framework of the “Virunga Alliance” in response to the economic and social needs of the local populations, and in the long-term to relocate them outside the property, are greatly appreciated.

It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property, update the corrective measures, prepare a timetable for their implementation and finalize the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). It is further recommended that the Committee maintain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and continue the application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism. 

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.11

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7A.41, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Addresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed in the exercise of their duties and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Warmly welcomes the joint operations between ICCN and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the increase in the number of guards to ensure an adequate surveillance of the property, but expresses its utmost concern regarding the continued insecurity in some sectors of the property, that has caused a decrease of surveillance coverage over the period under consideration and an increase in illegal activities (poaching, illicit fishing and production of charcoal) threatening the integrity of the property;
  5. Regrets that the State Party has not confirmed its commitment to not authorise new petroleum explorations and exploitations within the boundaries of the property and reiterates its position according to which all mining, petroleum and gas exploration and exploitation activities are incompatible with World Heritage status, a policy supported by commitments undertaken by the leaders of industry, such as Shell and Total, not to undertake such activities in World Heritage properties;
  6. Recalling that the importance of Lake Edward is evoked in many instances in the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, considers that any activity linked to petrol in the Lake Edward region is highly likely to damage the OUV of the property and including its integrity through negative impacts on the transborder waters;
  7. Reiterates its request to the Ugandan State Party not to grant a petroleum exploration permit for the Ngaji block and urges the States Parties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda to strongly commit to not authorizing any petroleum exploration or exploitation in the Lake Edward region;
  8. Notes with satisfaction the progress achieved concerning the combat against encroachment, and that the encouraging results demonstrate an increase in the resident mountain gorilla population, the hippopotamus as well as the stabilization of elephant poaching and welcomes the efforts of the “Virunga Alliance” in carrying out sustainable development activities to improve the life of local communities;
  9. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property, update the corrective measures, prepare a timetable for their implementation and finalize the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  10. Also 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;
  12. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

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 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: