Due to its location, the repercussions of the outbreak of the Great Lakes conflict in 1996 affected the Salonga National Park (PNS) somewhat later. The impact of the conflict concerned illegal encroachment and a significant increase of commercial poaching facilitated by the weakened situation and loss of authority of the ICCN, thus causing inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999. The unsatisfactory state of conservation of the property and the continuing lack of security despite the official halt of hostilities and important support that the property received, led the World Heritage Committee to consider a more global approach to the issue of 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.
As indicated in the previous report, the implementation of the corrective measures began in January 2008 and is ongoing. These activities are funded by UNESCO (World Heritage Fund), the European Union through WWF and the ECOFAC Conservation Programme of the European Union. The implementation of the corrective measures has however been delayed by internal problems of the ECOFAC project. However, the problems mentioned in previous reports remain present. Security and intensive poaching are the main issues. To this must be added the lack of funding which is a serious obstacle to the successful conduct of activities of participatory delimitation and demarcation of the boundary.
a) Organization and implementation of a large-scale combined anti-poaching operation involving the management authority (ICCN) and the Congolese Army Forces (FARDC) in the most threatened areas
Investigations on the poaching networks operating within the property have allowed ICCN to accumulate sufficient information on the major poaching areas. ICCN has been able to establish, together with the company of the 3rd military region, an efficacious action plan. Combined patrols are organized in the areas badly affected by poaching but their frequence often depends upon the availability of the FARDC units. However, a large-scale security operation to combat armed poaching, supported by the World Heritage Fund, is programmed for the second half of 2009.
b) Creation of a permanent consultation mechanism between the provincial political, administrative and military authorities of the four provinces covered by the property in order to address in a coordinated manner, the elimination of illegal activities, specifically large-scale poaching, in the Park
Following the tripartite meeting « Secure and Save the Environment of our Salonga National Park, threatened universal heritage» organized from 14 to 17 April 2008 which resulted in the adoption by all parties concerned of an anti-poaching combat plan, a « tripartite » monitoring and assessment structure was established, and plans to meet quarterly. A semi-annual meeting of governors, together with the ICCN Director-General is also foreseen.
c) Implement the recently-developed anti-poaching strategy
Implementation of the anti-poaching strategy continues, even though delayed by funding problems regarding the ECOFAC project. However, the first results obtained are encouraging. Awareness raising operations have allowed for the recuperation of a certain number of weapons, often voluntarily surrendered to ICCN. In the case of non-voluntary surrender, support from FARDC is requested to proceed with searches around the major poaching areas. Nevertheless, anti-poaching activities can only be effective if security is restored in and around the property.
d) Initiate a process to resolve the conflict concerning the use of Park resources through a participatory approach
Participatory delimitation and demarcation activities are ongoing but with very restricted means. Participatory structures are established and a procedure for the signature of conveyance contracts with local communities is underway. Furthermore, an awareness raising programme regarding poachers and illegal occupants in the Park has been set up. The activity is complex and will certainly require work over a long period.
e) Develop and implement a strategy to minimize and mitigate the impact of villages in the Park
This activity has not yet begun but is foreseen in the 2009-2011 triennial strategic plan for the property.
f) Link the two sectors of the property in the framework of a development plan for the property;
The procedure was initiated but will require intensive consultations with the different parties concerned. Consultations with the populations and preliminary studies have already been undertaken.
g) Establish a special fund for the rehabilitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo World Heritage properties (DRC)
See the report on Virunga National Park (Document WHC-09/33.COM/7A).
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have taken note of the progress achieved but, however, are concerned with regard to the accumulated delays in the implementation of the corrective measures, and in particular those linked to the security of the property and the halt of organized poaching. In the case of Salonga National Park, located outside of the area of armed conflict, lack of security is directly linked to the presence of professional poaching bands and without doubt the restoration of security constitutes a prerequisite for the improvement of the state of conservation of the property. This improvement should also, in fact, benefit the local populations. The resolution of the issue concerning the villages located in the property and the use of unsustainable resources of the Park can only be dealt with once security of the property has been established.
Since the 31st session, the reinforced monitoring mechanism is applied to the property 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 to continue application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism.