Los Katíos National Park (Colombia) (N 711)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1994
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger
- Illegal logging;
- Unauthorized settlements;
- Fishing and hunting;
- Threats from major infrastructure projects.
Previous Committee Decisions see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/711/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 73,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/711/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
November 2011: Joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to Bogota in lieu of visit to the property; January 2015: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Armed conflict (issue resolved)
- Illegal extraction of natural resources
- Threats from major infrastructure projects (electric transmission corridor)
- Lack of control of management agency
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/711/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 1 December 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/711/documents/ and includes detailed documentation of the management responses to Decision 39 COM 7A.19. The key activities are summarized hereafter:
- Further consolidation of the security situation and law enforcement through structured coordination between the public forces, regional environmental authorities and the park administration;
- Significant governmental budget increase from 2015 to 2016 with additional project funding;
- Consolidation of participatory efforts to integrate the property with regional and local planning schemes;
- Further assessment of the options to expand the national park and the property, and to link it with the emerging regional protected area system;
- Progress in defining functional buffer zones in the surroundings of the property jointly with regional authorities. Eventually, most of the surroundings are expected to be comprised of conservation areas, community councils and indigenous communal landholdings (resguardos);
- Formalization of a pact specifically dedicated to the conservation and management of the property between various sectors, levels of government and civil society in June 2016;
- Conclusion of user agreements and partnership agreements with several resource-dependent communities and the Association of Displaced People of Cacarica, as well as specific fishing agreements within the property, involving communities and park administration, and supported by civil society organizations and universities;
- Formalization of a “Special Management Regime” (REM in Spanish) between the traditional authorities of the Wounaan community of Juin Phubuur inside of the property and the park administration, described as a legal and technical “joint planning instrument”;
- Rapid assessment of the ecological and socio-economic effects of the canal between the Leon and Atrato Rivers through the freshwater system in the property, built decades ago to float logs;
- Continuation of efforts to involve the park administration and fully consider the property in the assessment procedures for the planned electricity transmission corridor;
- Two new port projects are planned, Puerto PISISI and Puerto Antioquia, which will need to consider the property in the corresponding impact assessments;
- Efforts to enhance coordination and cooperation with the neighbouring State Party of Panama, in particular as regards the contiguous World Heritage property of Darien National Park, could reach a new level through the formalization of a Memorandum of Understanding.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
Following the property’s removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2015, the State Party has further increased its investment and presence on the ground and, thereby, improved the security situation, law enforcement and cooperation with indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombian and Mestizo communities. Despite the government regaining control in the area, some ongoing illegal logging serves as a reminder of the need to secure law enforcement.
Bilateral and multilateral projects support the State Party, with further projects under discussion. While additional external support is encouraged, it should complement rather than replace governmental budgets to ensure reliable and predictable resources in the medium and long term. The pact bringing together various governmental institutions and civil society actors constitutes a remarkable formal consolidation of the partnership approach in a region heavily affected by longstanding and severe conflict. The user agreements with several community councils and other partners to address overfishing and overharvesting of the wetlands, lagoons and rivers are important contributors to the sustainable management of resources, which are critically important both to the communities’ livelihoods and to the conservation values of the property. However, as acknowledged by the State Party, these resources cannot comprehensively be managed at the scale of a relatively small protected area.
The “Special Management Regime” agreed between the park administration and the traditional leaders of the Wounaan community of Juin Phubuur stands out as a rare and positive example of active reconciliation between indigenous rights and aspirations and governmental biodiversity conservation objectives inside of a World Heritage property.
The possible expansion to the north of Los Katíos National Park and the property by including the current Serrania del Darien National Protection Forest Reserve (Colombia), the ongoing efforts to embed the property within the emerging regional protected area system, and the establishment a functional buffer zone as integral elements of a participatory land use planning approach are laudable and should be further encouraged. Enhanced coordination and cooperation with the State Party of Panama is likewise highly desirable, and both State Parties should thus further pursue ongoing efforts.
The updated information regarding the planned electricity transmission corridor between Colombia and Panama confirms the strong commitment of the State Party to fully respect applicable impact assessment procedures, including specifically as regards the protected area and World Heritage status of Los Katiós. If the planned project goes ahead, adequate assessment on potential impacts on the property’s OUV will be required. The same holds true for the newly reported port projects (Puerto PISISI and Puerto Antioquia) despite their physical location outside of the property.
The State Party notes that the artificial canal between the Leon and Atrato Rivers within the property not only changed the freshwater ecology of some of the lowlands of Los Katíos but has also attained importance in the local economy. As the closure of this human-made canal would also be very costly, further assessment considering the full complexity is needed to underpin pending decision-making.
Overall, it can be concluded that following the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, the State Party has continued to systematically follow up on past Committee decisions. It is recommended that the Committee commend the State Party for pursuing its systematic management response and request it to continue its efforts and to address all pending issues.
Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.11
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7A.19, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Highly commends the State Party on the continuation of systematic management responses to the Committee’s requests and recommendations, as well as recommendations of the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission;
- Strongly encourages the State Party to:
- Further consolidate human and financial resources and the partnership approach, bridging gaps between the government and civil society and among governmental institutions, both at local and national levels,
- Further assess the feasibility of extending the Los Katíos National Park and possibly the property so as to include the Serrania del Darien National Protection Forest Reserve (Colombia) and potentially other areas,
- Further integrate the property with the emerging regional protected area system and continue the promising efforts to define a functional buffer zone for eventual formalization under the World Heritage Convention,
- Monitor the implementation of user agreements jointly with the involved communities, in particular the “Special Management Regime” in the Wounaan community of Juin Phubuur, and adapt the agreements to emerging needs as appropriate and required,
- Further integrate local user agreements with comprehensive management of fish populations within and beyond the property,
- Further refine the assessment of options to manage the impacts and risks posed by the artificial connection between the Leon and Atrato Rivers, while respecting the socio-economic importance of the canal;
- Also commends the States Parties of Colombia and Panama on efforts to strengthen communication, coordination and cooperation in the management of the two contiguous properties of Los Katíos National Park (Colombia) and Darien National Park (Panama) and also encourages both States Parties to formalize a specific Memorandum of Understanding in this regard;
- Reiterates its request to the States Parties of Colombia and Panama to ensure that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the electricity transmission corridor includes a specific assessment of potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of both properties of Los Katíos National Park (Colombia) and Darien National Park (Panama), in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to submit the results of the ESIA to the World Heritage Centre as soon as they are available and before taking any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Requests the State Party to fully assess the possible impacts of the planned port projects (Puerto PISISI and Puerto Antioquia), in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and to report on the development of both projects to the World Heritage Centre, and before taking any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 43rd session in 2019.