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

Corrective measures identified

The following corrective measures have been identified by the 2006 World Heritage Centre mission and adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006):

a) Establish a « Committee to Save Virunga » (CSV) which will help address the threats to the property;

b) Reduce significantly the number of military positions inside the property, and ensure a close follow up of illegal activity by military personnel;

c) Immediate closure and removal of the Nyaleke army reunification and training camp, as decided by the Minister of Defence;

d) Continue the efforts to evacuate in a peaceful and integrated way all illegal occupants in the property, accompanied by appropriate measures to assist the reintegration of the populations in their region of origin;

e) Strengthen cooperation between the managing body of the Park, ICCN, and its partners by developing a joint plan for all interventions in the Park, with clear responsibilities and an implementation plan;

f) Develop a strategy to share any profits, such as from tourism related to gorillas, with the local communities in order to improve relations;

g) Strengthen law enforcement in the property, concentrating on priority areas and remotivating Park staff. Also propose specialized training of staff to improve efficiency.

h) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the World Heritage properties of the Democatic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Reinforced monitoring mission of August 2007 reaffirmed the importance of points b) and f) identified in the additional urgent actions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) :

i) Halt all charcoal production within the property and promote alternative sources of energy;

j) Strengthen the role of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Congo (MONUC) to establish security in the property and its periphery;

k) Strengthen communication and awareness raising activities targeted at the competent authorities and local populations.

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 provided to the property: Conservation Programme for RDC World Heritage properties (“DRC Programme”) funded by the UNF, Italy and Belgium. (2001–2005) : approximately USD 900,000. (2005-2008) : USD 300,000. In January 2007 financial support (USD 30,000) granted by the Rapid Response Facility. 

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and 2006 : World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2007: World Heritage Centre/IUCN in the framework of the Reinforced monitoring mechansim. Several World Heritage Centre missions in the framework of the DRC Programme. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Armed conflict, insecurity and political instability;

b) Poaching by armed military groups;

c) Encroachment;

d) Extension of illegal fishing areas;

e) Deforestation and cattle grazing.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

In 1994, the year of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, the massive influx of populations fleeing Rwanda to seek refuge in Virunga National Park (PNVi), has directly impacted the Park with an unprecedented increase in pressure on the natural resources and causing the conditions for the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. In 1996, the outbreak of the Great Lakes conflict, resulting in the establishment of armed bands and rebel groups within the property and the loss of control by ICCN over a large part of the property would precipitate the increase in poaching, acceleration of deforestation, proliferation of fishing villages and exacerbate the state of conservation of the property. The unsatisfactory state of conservation of the property and the continuing lack of security despite the official halt of the conflict and strong support provided to the property, led the World Heritage Committee to consider a more global approach to the question regarding the deteriorating situation of all the DRC World Heritage properties. In 2007, the reinforced monitoring mechanism, recently adopted by the World Heritage Committee, was applied to the property (31 COM 7A.32).

On 2 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. This report contained information on progress achieved in the implementation of the corrective measures.

Since the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee, security in the PNVi has clearly deteriorated due to the resumption, at the beginning of October 2008, of clashes between Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The new military offensive has caused a large area of the Park to be occupied by the CNDP, including the Rumangabo Station, that ICCN staff were forced to abandon. Thanks to support from the World Heritage Centre, the Park has benefitted from emergency financial assistance from the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) to provide urgent assistance to the guards and their families following the attack at Rumangabo.

In December 2008, stabilization of the situation allowed ICCN to negotiate the renewal of conservation activities in the south and north sectors of the property with the CNDP. Nevertheless, the situation remains very delicate as regards to security. The attack on the Tshiabirimu Station on 8 January 2009 by a group of Mai Mai rebels, during which a guard was killed, clearly illustrates the situation.

The political and military situation is also evolving very rapidly. At the end of January 2009, the Congolese and Rwandan authorities met to organize a joint operation against the Rwandan Liberation Democratic Forces (FDLR), a Rwandan rebel movement, largely responsible for insecurity in the eastern part of the country. There is strong apprehension that this operation will lead to new clashes in and around the Park. A reconciliation between the two countries brings hope, in the long term, for an improvement in security in North Kivu.

Moreover, the World Heritage Centre was informed of the granting of petrol prospection and exploitation permits in several areas overlapping the property to two companies, Dominion Petroleum and Heritage Oil. However, to become valid, these permits must still be ratified by a Presidential decree. In response to a letter from the World Heritage Centre requesting information concerning the granting of these permits, the DRC Minister of Environment indicated that he had informed his counterpart responsible for Hydrocarbons of the matter, recalling the existence of national legislative provisions forbidding this type of activity in a protected area.

The breakdown in security has delayed the implementation of the corrective measures. Nevertheless, some progress has been noted:

a) Create a «Committee to Save Virunga » (CSV) to help address the threats to the property

As indicated in the previous report, the CSV has been operational since 2007.

b) Reduce significantly the number of military positions inside the property and ensure a close follow up of illegal activity by military personnel

The Park Direction has carried out lobbying which has resulted in the transfer of the 9th brigade initially based in Rwindi, in the centre of the Park, and more than 99% of its advance positions. However, the resumption of hostilities in the east gives cause for the reinstallation of troops. To avoid further illegal activity, the Direction of the property continues to carry out awareness raising actions targeted at the military authorities of the FARDC 8th military region.

c) Immediate closure and removal of the Nyaleke training and reunification camp, as decided by the Minister of Defence

No progress has been achieved with regard to this issue and the camp is still operational.

d) Continue the efforts to evacuate in a peaceful and integrated manner all illegal occupants in the property, accompanied by appropriate measures to assist the reintegration of the populations in their region of origin 

On the western side of Lake Edward, the initiatives for peaceful and consensual evacuation began with accompanied voluntary return of families to their original villages. To date, 523 families have been evacuated. The resumption of armed conflict in the region in October/December 2008 and the occupation by armed groups of the areas usually designated for return operations have brought a halt to the process. These evacuation operations will resume as soon as the security situation permits. They will further be reinforced thanks to the establishment of a control mechanism involving all the concerned parties (police, customary chiefs, etc.), thus avoiding the return of families already evacuated. These activities have the support of the « DRC Programme ».

With regard to encroachment in the Kirolirwe region, no progress has been noted due to lack of security preventing access to this area.

e) Strengthen cooperation between the managing body of the Park (ICCN) and its partners by developing a joint plan for all the interventions within the Park, with clear responsibilities and an implementation plan

A consortium bringing together the ICCN Management Authority and its partners in the field of conservation (WWF, Wildlife Conservation Society, Gorilla Organization, Zoological Society of London), political and administrative authorities at the provincial and territorial levels, customary authorities, humanitarian NGOs, representatives of civil society, the army and local police, was established in November 2006. The planning of all conservation activities of the property is carried out jointly, through the Coordination Committee of the Site (CoCoSi). The PNVi Direction has, further, developed a « Virunga National Park Annual Plan» together with an operational plan for each of the sectors of the property.

f) Develop a strategy to share any profits, such as from tourism related to gorillas, with the local communities in order to improve relations

A preliminary study on the sharing of income with local communities was carried out. Based on this study, a diagnostic in terms of SWOP analysis of the different reconveyance mechanisms implemented by the Park was made. The next step will be the definition, in a participatory manner with local communities, of more efficacious income-sharing mechanisms in terms of funding development projects for the benefit of the communities. It should be noted that the principle of income-sharing is already practised with ICCN whereby the texts foresee a reconveyance of 30% of tourism income to local communities.

g) Strengthen law enforcement in the property concentrating on priority areas

Actions to strengthen the application of the law within the property have principally been aimed at awareness raising of the populations through diverse media, at national and provincial levels. Themes regularly discussed at the national level generally concern the legal status of the property, the statement of its boundaries, its type of management, the impact of carbonisation on the protection of the southern sector (Mikeno and Nyamulagira) as well as activities of community interest involving the adhesion by adjacent communities to the laws relating to conservation in the PNVi.

Surveillance activities are always very difficult due to security problems. The poaching of large mammals remains a serious issue. Nevertheless, since the 32nd session, no new case of the slaughter of gorilla has been reported.

h) Create a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the World Heritage properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Pilot Committee for the Trust Fund for the protected areas of the DRC was created by Ministerial Decree on 11 February 2009. The members of the Pilot Committee (17) were nominated by the Ministerial Decree of 15 February 2009. The Pilot Committee, chaired by the Minister of Environment, met for the first time on 26 February 2009 in Kinshasa. The Belgian Government announced a second contribution of 1 million Euros for the Fund. Other donors, like France, Germany and United Kingdom also expressed their interest.

i) Halt all charcoal production within the property and promote alternative sources of energy

The management authorities of the property have begun a programme for the production of biomass briquettes with the aim of encouraging this technology as an alternative energy to charcoal from the property. This programme also aspires to creating employment thanks to the construction and availability to the local communities of carpentry workshops to produce these briquettes. Furthermore, WWF has reinforced reforestry activities around the property. However, deforestation for the production of charcoal remains one of the greatest threats to the integrity of the property.

j) Strengthen the role of the (MONUC) to establish security in the property and its periphery

Since the May 2008 joint mission of the World Heritage Centre and the MONUC focal point on issues relating to conservation, MONUC’s role in the improvement of security in the property and its periphery has become more significant. Mixed ICCN-MONUC patrols were regularly organised, allowing ICCN to gain access, prior to the resumption of the October/December 2008 clashes, to areas previously inaccessible due to insecurity.

k) Strengthen communication and awareness raising activities targeted at the competent authorities and local populations

A « Forum on the problematic of the management and enhancement of Virunga National Park, World Heritage site » was held, under the auspices of the Governor of North Kivu, on 13 and 14 August 2008. More than 80 participants attended among whom can be cited the principal Mwami (customary chiefs), provincial parliamentarians, ICCN partners, representatives of the private sector, etc.

 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain very concerned regarding the situation of this property. Due to the deterioration of security since the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee, it is difficult to initiate a verifiable « ecological restoration of the property ». The emphasis continues to be placed on damage limitation and safeguarding of the ecological capital. However, recent political and military developments provide hope of an improvement in security over the long term in eastern DRC.

Since the 31st session, reinforced monitoring mechanism at the property is in force and the World Heritage Centre ensures the continued monitoring of the state of conservation of the property through its « DRC Programme». In view of the current situation at the property, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend the continued application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism.

 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7A.31

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7A.31, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Regrets that the State Party has not yet proposed a new date for the high level meeting requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) and urges the State Party to set a date for this meeting as soon as possible in consultation with the Office of the Director General of UNESCO, the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee and the President of IUCN;

4. Welcomes the continued commitment of MONUC to develop a Memorandum of Understanding with the protected area authority to improve cooperation for the conservation of the properties and also urges the State Party to follow up on this proposal, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

5. Reiterates its request to the State Party to adopt a comprehensive approach involving the different relevant Ministries to address the urgent threats to the five World Heritage properties situated within the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular in relation to the outstanding issues such as the cancellation of mining and oil exploration and exploitation concessions, the relocation of the Nyaleke army camp, and the measures required to address illegal occupation of the Kahuzi-Biega corridor;

6. Also recalls its request to the State Party and the international community to raise international awareness and promote the implementation of the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee and particularly the proposed corrective measures.

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7A.4

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7A.4, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed during protection operations at the property as well as its support for the guards and families who have lost homes following the attack and occupation of the Rumangabo Station in October 2008;

4. Regrets the breakdown in security that continues to hamper the implementation of conservation activities and threatens the Outstanding Universal Value of the property but expresses the hope that the new cooperation between the Congolese and Rwandan Governments will result in the restoration of security in and around the property;

5. Urges the State Party, in cooperation with the United Nations Organization Mission for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), to reinforce its efforts to disarm all the armed groups, national and foreign, operating in and around the property;

6. Expresses its deep concern with regard to the envisaged oil prospecting projects overlapping the property and also urges the State Party to exclude them from territory of the property;

7. Reiterates its position regarding the incompatibility of oil exploration and exploitation with the World Heritage status; 

8. Also regrets that the State Party has not yet undertaken the necessary measures to relocate, beyond the boundaries of the property, the training and reunification camp of the army based at Nyaleke; 

9. Reiterates its request to the State Party to implement the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee following the 2006 monitoring mission and the 2007 reinforced monitoring mission;

10. Reiterates its request to the State Party to develop in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies a draft statement of Outstanding Universal Value as well as a proposal for the desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the list of World Heritage in Danger for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

11. Encourages the State Party's park management authority and other agencies to continue and strengthen their work to provide alternative energy sources as a way to alleviate deforestation pressures and calls on the international community to support these activities;

12. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including information on the progress of oil exploration and exploitation projects  overlapping the property, an update on the disarmament of armed groups within the park, and information on the situation of flagship species of the property, the extent of encroachment and deforestation in the region, the degree of poaching, as well as progress accomplished in the implementation of the corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;

13. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforce Monitoring Mechanism for one more year;

14. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-09/33.COM/7A, WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Add and WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC-09/33.COM/7A.Corr),

2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: