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 reinvigorating Park staff. Also propose specialised training of this staff to improve efficiency.

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

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 : First phase of the programme financed by the UNF and Belgium for the conservation of the DRC World Heritage properties (« DRC Programme »). (2001–2005) : approximately USD 900,000. Current phase (2005-2008) : USD 300,000. In January 2007, support granted by the rapid response facility (USD 30,000). 

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and 2006 : World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2007 : World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission in the framework of the Reinforced monitoring mechanism. Several World Heritage Centre missions in the framework of the project. 

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 2008

Application of the Reinforced monitoring mechanism at the property since 2007 (31 COM 7A.32).

On 1 February 2008, a concise report on the state of conservation of the five World Heritage properties in the DRC was submitted by the State Party. The report contained a brief overview of ongoing management operations but little information on the implementation of corrective measures and the implementation of emergency activities developed by the reinforced monitoring mission.

The report indicates the occupation of the gorilla sector by General Nkunda’s rebels that have established a management authority parallel to that of the ICCN. Since 2 September 2007, agents of the ICCN, who had been disarmed by the rebel troops of Laurent Nkunda, no longer have access to the sectors of Jomba and Bikenge of the Park, without the protection of the United Nations Organization Mission to the Congo (MONUC), for fear of being targeted.

During the last session, the World Heritage Centre informed the Committee of the slaughter, on 10 June 2006, of a gorilla of the Kabirizi family. In July 2007, five gorillas, belonging to the Rugendo family, were slaughtered. At the request of the State Party and in the framework of the implementation of the Reinforced monitoring mechanism, a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission visited the property from 11 to 22 August 2007 to clarify the circumstances concerning the slaughter and to evaluate the state of conservation of the property. The mission, organized in cooperation with MONUC and UNEP, was able to meet with the Directorate General of the ICCN management authority, Park staff (officers and guards), representatives of conservation NGOs, the military command and judiciary authorities. The mission was also received by the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to the RDC, the President of the National Assembly and the Minister for the Environment.

The information gathered by the mission indicates that opposition by a certain number of persons to the dismantlement of a charring network operating inside the property since 2001 and providing charcoal for the Goma market, is at the origin of the slaughter of the gorillas. The mission concluded that it concerned a well-organized network that allowed certain ICCN guards and staff, military and customary chiefs, to benefit both from a somewhat fragile political situation and the inability of the ICCN Directorate General to fully exercise its authority to halt illegal production of charcoal within the Park. Major management problems, in particular with regard to the management of human resources, would also have contributed to the disfunctionment of ICCN in the face of this problem. The mission noted that the main degradation issues of the property, raised by the 2005 mission, remain current and regretted that the proposed corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee had not been implemented.

The mission considered that the outstanding universal value for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List is still present but that it is increasingly threatened, and the integrity greatly affected. General insecurity, lack of governance concerning conservation and management of natural resources and increasing threats, seriously affecting the property and its integrity, could lead to irreversible impacts on it. It is important that the State Party ensure the monitoring of the state of the threatened species, the extent of the area of the regions encroached upon and deforestation and the level of poaching.

The reinforced monitoring mission concluded that emergency measures were required to avoid the irreversible loss of the outstanding universal value. Apart from urgent action, it also developed recommendations for the institutional reinforcement of the ICCN, improvement in the management of the property and strengthening of cooperation with the local populations. It also identified a lack of communication with the neighbouring communities around the property and noted that without support from local stake holders, it would be difficult to ensure the protection and conservation of the outstanding universal value and the integrity of the property.

The report of the reinforced monitoring mission was transmitted to the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, the Congolese authorities and members of the Committee. It is available at the following Internet address: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2008 .

The speedy investigation carried out by the State Party following the mission confirmed the implication of ICCN agents; the ICCN Provincial Director and officers have been arrested. On 27 July 2007, the ICCN Management Committee entrusted the implementation of certain recommendations proposed by the August 2007 mission to the Chief of the Northern Sector of the property, in particular the reorganization of surveillance in the Mikeno sector, the reorganization of the work of ICCN staff, the pursuance of investigations with local authorities concerning the slaughter of gorillas, the strengthening of cooperation between the State services and the sector, the development of dialogue between stake holders and the establishment of a new tourist system. With support from NGO partners, an emergency plan was developed to secure the gorillas in the Mikeno sector, a Crisis Committee was set up, permanent monitoring of gorillas in the sector, awareness raising of local populations and the organization of mixed patrols.

Since the mission and despite a continuing tense security situation, the implementation of corrective measures, adopted by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006) has progressed:

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

The CSV, comprising representatives of various administrative institutions in the Province, ICCN, MONUC and conservation NGOs, has been operational since May 2007. With political support from the Province, it has already initiated actions to mitigate certain conflicts linked to management, in particular fishery management at Lake Edward and the issue of awareness raising of the military, often involved in illegal fishing activities.

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

To date, occupation of the Park by different armed groups destroying the natural resources, on the increase since recent events, remains the key problem for the conservation of the property. At the Conference for Peace and Development of the two Kivus at end-January 2008, an Act of Commitment was signed by the different armed groups. In particular, it provided for the dismantlement of all national and foreign armed groups present in the region. This operation has begun, but there is no set timetable for its execution.

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

Despite the assurances given by the Ministry of Defence, no progress has been accomplished in this regard. The stumbling block remains the funding, estimated at USD 316,318 for the relocation of the camp outside the perimeter of the property.

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;

Survey operations of illegally established populations inside the property and awareness raising actions for these populations have begun again and are giving encouraging results. On the western side of Lake Edward, more than 5,400 households are already willing to be evacuated and eleven sites have been identified to welcome them. With regard to encroachment in the region of Kirolirwe, controlled by the rebel troops of Nkunda, insecurity problems have hindered this activity.

Moreover, following information that new camps for displaced persons due to the war were installed inside the Park, the World Heritage Centre addressed a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 8 January 2008, requesting the relocation of these camps outside the boundaries of the Park. In response, the High Commissioner informed that an alternative site had been identified and that the transfer of the 4,000 displaced persons had been accomplished.

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;

The joint strategic plan, developed by ICCN and its partners has finally been transformed into an emergency plan for the gorilla sector, as mentioned above. The NGO partners have managed to assemble « joint funds » to finance this emergency 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;

Tourism is insignificant in the Park due to the insecurity situation. However, ICCN has recognized the issue of the equal share of profits from observation tourism. A first step taken was the termination notice for the contract with a private company that had tourism monopoly related to gorillas.

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

The implementation of the emergency plan provides for a permanent surveillance of the gorilla sector to minimise the risk of slaughter. Throughout August, six patrols, under canvas, were carried out. Unfortunately, as of September, this programme was greatly disturbed by the disarmament of the guards by Nkunda’s men. Patrols in the remainder of the Park are also greatly disturbed due to insecurity.

h) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the World Heritage properties of the DRC ;

A trust fund for the DRC protected areas is being established and is presented in the general report on the state of conservation of properties in the DRC (Document WHC-08/32.COM/7A, item 31).

An important project for the transboundary management of Greater Virunga (Uganda, Rwanda, DRC) is under preparation, by the European Union with support from IUCN. Major funding from the European Union and the French Global Environmental (FFEM) is foreseen. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7A.31

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7A.32, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Commends the State Party for its effort to control poaching but expresses its concern about the ongoing threats to the integrity of the properties;

4. Reiterates its request to the State Party to adopt a comprehensive approach to address the urgent threats to the properties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) based on the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee as well as the recommendations from monitoring missions;

5. Calls on all States Parties to the Convention to use their bilateral contacts to raise international awareness and promote the implementation of the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee;

6. Regrets that the State Party has postponed the high level meeting between the authorities of DRC, the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, the Director-General of UNESCO, the President of IUCN, donors and other interested parties to identify strategies to address the on-going deterioration of the state of conservation of the five properties from DRC inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger before the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee, and urgesthe State Party to set a date for this meeting as soon as possible, in consultation with the Office of the Director-General of UNESCO, and the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee and the office of the President of IUCN;

7. Welcomes the commitment of the United Nations Foundation, the African World Heritage Fund, and the States Parties of Italy and Belgium in supporting the activities for restoring the Outstanding Universal Value of the five properties;

8. Notes with satisfaction the progress made in developing a trust fund for the DRC properties;

9. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring mechanism to the five properties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7A.4

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7A.4, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Expresses its sincerest condolences to the families of guards who were killed during operations related to the protection of the property;

4. Regrets that, despite the peace efforts undertaken by the State Party in the eastern part of the country, and the Peace Conference, permanent insecurity inside and around the property continues to hinder conservation activities;

5. Notes with concern the results and conclusions of the Reinforced Monitoring mission of August 2007 indicating that the Outstanding Universal Value for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List is becoming increasingly threatened and that the accumulating threats could have an irreversible impact on the property and its integrity;

6. Urges the State Party, in cooperation with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), to implement the Act of Commitment adopted on 23 January 2008 at the end of the Goma Peace and Development Conference in the two Kivus that provides for the disarmament of all armed national and foreign groups in this region;

7. Requests the State Party to implement the urgent actions recommended by the Reinforced Monitoring mission of August 2007, in particular :

                        a) halt all production of charcoal inside the property and promote alternative sources of energy;

                        b) withdraw the non-strategic military postings;

                        c) take steps to improve security in the property and its periphery, and in this endeavour to seek any cooperation that may be extended, consistent with its mandate and capabilities, by MONUC;

                        d) ensure transparent management of income resulting from tourism and develop and implement a profit-sharing strategy with local communities;

                        e) strengthen communication activities and awareness raising for the authorities concerned and local populations;

8. Also requests the State Party to implement the other recommendations of the Reinforced Monitoring mission of August 2007, in particular the recommendations for the institutional strengthening of the management authority for the protected areas, ICCN, as well as the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius 2006);

9. Brings to the attention of the State Party that the presence of the Nyaleke army training and reunification camp inside the property, as well as the granting of mining and oil exploration concessions endangers the integrity of the property;

10. Further requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity 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 33rd session in 2009;

11. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, before 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including an update on the disarmament of the armed groups within the property and information on monitoring the state of the threatened species, the extent of encroachment and deforestation in the region, and the level of poaching, as well as progress accomplished in the implementation of the recommendations of the Reinforced Monitoring mission and the corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

12. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring mechanism to the property;

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