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  http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5983   

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted, see page http://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 2018

On 15 February 2018, the State Party submitted a report on then state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents/, that provides the following information:

Two murderous attacks have been perpetrated, respectively on 14 July 2017 and on 17 February 2018, against the ICCN teams. Unfortunately, eleven guards were killed and six others seriously wounded. They demonstrate the level of insecurity in and around the property and the difficulties encountered by the ICCN teams who exercise their functions too often endangering their lives.

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

Current conservation issues

On 15 February 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of implementation of Decision 41 COM 7A.12. This report is available at the address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/42COM/documents/#state_of_conservationreports  and provides the following information:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

Insecurity in the region remains a permanent threat that continues to complicate the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The ambush at Eringeti is proof of this, and it is recommended that the Committee condemn these attacks and address its condolences to the families of the guards killed during operations to protect the property.

The coverage of the property by foot patrols (49.5% in 2017) has again diminished in comparison to 2016 (52%), highlighting their difficulty to fully access the property, notably due to insecurity. Moreover, the number of guards, 126 persons, does not enable ICCN to ensure an adequate surveillance of the property, slowing down patrol efforts to terminate poaching and artisanal mining exploitation in all sectors of the property. It is recommended that the Committee express its concern as regards the persistent insecurity that has led to a reduction in the surveillance coverage since 2015, and reiterates its request to the State Party to reinforce the number of guards as well as the budget for the property.

Efforts made to train the guards as OPJs and strengthen the capacities of the justice stakeholders are positive. These efforts have enabled ICCN to conclude four complaints to the justice. The implementation of most of the recommendations of the Mambasa Round Table (May 2013) is also to be welcomed and has enabled the tempering of relations between the inhabitants of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR) and ICCN. 

The continuing illegal artisanal mining exploitations in the property remain an important threat to the protection of its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and the urgent evacuation of the illegal occupants is a major priority.

The establishment of a permit system to control traffic of the RN4 and the migratory flux is warmly welcomed and should, beforehand, be accompanied by a census of the current residents in the property. However, the study requested by the Committee (40 COM 7A.39) to evaluate the impacts due to the increase in the number of inhabitants in the villages along the RN4, on the use of land around the villages has not yet been carried out.

The additional delay in the finalization of the PAG due to lack of funds is regrettable. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to update the PAG and implement it, integrating the provisions relating to the different zones in the property, including the ZCIC, the subsistence zones and the CFCLs.

No information has been communicated by the State Party as concerns the accomplishment of the indicators for the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). It is recommended that the Committee maintain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism.

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

Analysis and conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The efforts of ICCN to implement the Kinshasa Declaration and the corrective measures in each of the properties as well as strengthening its collaboration with the FARDC and the different state institutions are favourably welcomed. Commendable progress has also been made with the law-enforcement equipment made available to improve security for the guards.

Insecurity caused by the presence of armed groups and various militia continue to threaten the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of most of the properties located in eastern DRC. In particular, it has a heavy human impact and in this respect, it is relevant to recall that the year 2017 was extremely tragic for ICCN staff. Twenty-one guards and a driver were killed in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and in the Virunga National Park and many others were seriously injured. They were killed during attacks and ambushes deliberately targeting the ICCN staff. At the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a team of 27 ICCN agents were kidnapped last March for more than a month by a group of militia. It is recommended that the Committee strongly condemn this violence, address its condolences to the families of the victims and ICCN staff and that it expresses its utmost concern as regards the continuing insecurity in and around most of the properties located in eastern DRC.

The delay engendered in the deployment of the CorPPN contingent is regrettable. It is recommended that the Committee reiterates its request to the State Party to provide human and financial means to enable it to become operational, and that it also requests the State Party to implement, in conformity with the Kinshasa Declaration, all means to establish security conditions for the ICCN staff to fulfil their mission under adequate conditions and without risk of life.

Concerning the issue of petroleum exploration, the State Party has informed the World Heritage Centre of the attribution of the three blocks that encroach a part of Salonga National Park. Other blocks should soon be attributed; if they were attributed, they would cover the total area of the property. Furthermore, the World Heritage Centre was informed in May of a proposal made in March 2018 by the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to its government of degazettement, at the national level of one or several zones of the Virunga and Salonga National Parks, to carry out petroleum explorations. It is noted that a partial reclassification of these Parks unilaterally decided by the State Party would question the legal protection of the properties. This legal protection is one of the three components of the OUV. Moreover, modifications to the boundaries of the World Heritage properties linked to extractive industries must be treated through the procedure applied for major modifications to boundaries, in conformity with Paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines, taking into account the potential impact of these projects on the OUV. Furthermore, this proposal is in contradiction to the Kinshasa Declaration that is committed to maintaining the protection status of the properties. It is therefore recommended that the Committee expresses its utmost concern regarding this issue and that it reiterates its position concerning the incompatibility of oil exploration and exploitation with World Heritage status. It is also recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to cancel these concessions and to attribute no new ones in Salonga National Park and its periphery. It is recommended that the Committee reiterates its deep concern as regards the proposal of degazettement one or several zones of the Salonga and Virunga National Parks to authorize petroleum exploration and that it recalls that modifications made to the boundaries of the World Heritage properties must be made in conformity with the provisions of the Operational Guidelines and must be based on strengthening the OUV of the properties, rather than facilitating extractive activities.

The efforts of the State Party to render the FOCON Trust Fund operational are warmly welcomed. It is recommended that the Committee congratulate the State Party for this important progress and encourages it, as well as the donors, to provide this Fund with adequate financial means to respond to the needs of the protected areas and the DRC World Heritage properties.

Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7A.49

Note: the following report on the World Heritage properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) needs to be read in conjunction with Item 52.


The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7A.9 adopted during its 41st session (Kracow, 2017),
  3. Condemns the violence perpetrated against the staff of the property and in particular the guards, killed during surveillance operations of the property, and addresses its most sincere condolences to their families;
  4. Reiterates its concern as regards insecurity which has again led to a reduction in surveillance coverage, and reiterates its request to the State Party to rapidly strengthen the number of guards as well as the budget for the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in order to extend the coverage of the patrols and progressively gain control of the property and drastically reduce poaching that affects the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  5. Appreciates the efforts made to strengthen the capacities of the justice stakeholders and the guards and to implement the recommendations of the Mambasa Round Table of May 2013, having achieved a tempering of relations between the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and the local communities and their involvement in the management of the property;
  6. Warmly welcomes the establishment of a permit system to control the use of the National Road 4 (RN4) and the number of illegal residents, also requests the State Party to update the data concerning the number of residents in the property and also reiterates its request to the State Party to assess the impacts of the increase in populations on the land-use in the property and the villages located along the RN4;
  7. Reiterates its concern in the face of continuing illegal artisanal mining exploitation in the property and urges the State Party to undertake urgent measures to evacuate these illegal quarries and ensure their rehabilitation;
  8. Further requests the State Party to update the Integrated Management Plan (PAG), integrating provisions relating to the different zones of the property including the subsistence zones, the Central Integral Conservation Area and the Forestry Concessions for Local Communities, and ensure its immediate implementation;
  9. Moreover, reiterates its request to the State Party to provide data concerning progress accomplished with regard to the goals defined in the Desired state of conservation for 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 2019, an updated state of conservation report and the implementation of the above points, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019;
  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: 42 COM 7A.52

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7A.12, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017) and reaffirming the need to implement the Kinshasa Declaration adopted in 2011,
  3. Expresses its concern regarding continued insecurity in and around the properties located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), condemns the violence perpetrated against the guards and the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), killed in the line of duty, and addresses its most sincere condolences to their families and all the ICCN staff;
  4. Regrets the delay experienced in the establishment of the Corps responsible for the security of the National Parks and relevant protected areas (CorPPN) and requests the State Party to provide, without delay, financial means to enable the deployment of contingents in the sites to render them secure and combat the different armed groups;
  5. Expresses its utmost concern as regards the attribution of blocks for oil exploration in the Central Basin of the DRC, that covers several sectors of Salonga National Park, reiterates with insistence its request to the State Party to cancel these concessions and to undertake a commitment not to authorize any new oil exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of the property, and reiterates its position according to which all oil and gas exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status;
  6. Expresses its deep concern again as to the proposal by the Ministry of Hydrocarbons of degazettement at the national level of one or several zones of Salonga and Virunga National Parks to authorize petroleum exploration activities and recalls that modifications made to the boundaries of World Heritage properties relating to extractive industries must be carried out in conformity with the procedures applied to major modifications of boundaries set out in Paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines, taking account of the potential impact of such projects on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  7. Also recalls that any proposal for modification to the boundaries of a World Heritage property must be based on strengthening its OUV and should not be proposed with the aim of facilitating extractive activities;
  8. Commends the efforts of the State Party to make operational the Trust Fund for protected areas in the DRC, namely the « Okapi Funds for Conservation – FOCON », and also requests the State Party, as well as the donor community, to provide it with adequate financial means to respond to the needs of the protected areas and the World Heritage properties of the DRC;
  9. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, a detailed report on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, the security situation in the properties, and the status of the oil exploration and exploitation concessions that encroach on World Heritage properties, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.

Decision Adopted: 42 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/18/42.COM/7A, WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add and WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add.2),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: