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Marrakesh - The 23rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Marrakesh, Morocco, was informed today that the United Nations Foundation (UNF) would contribute $2.9 million to World Heritage sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The project, "Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict: Protecting World Natural Heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo", was approved by the Board of Governors of the United Nations Foundation, at their Meeting held in South Africa from 2 to 5 November 1999.

The project was developed by UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and the Division of Ecological Sciences in co-operation with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and a Task Force of conservation NGOs, GTZ-Germany and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The following conservation NGOs participated in the work of the Task Force: International Rhino Foundation (IRF); International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP); Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); and the Gilman International Conservation (GIC).

The UNF will channel its grant through the UN Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) based in UN New York. Of the estimated total of US$ 4,186,600 required to implement the project, UNF/UNFIP will provide US$ 2,895,912 and co-operate with UNESCO and Task Force members to raise the additional US$ 1,290,688 from alternative sources. UNF/UNFIP and UNESCO will use an abbreviated title, i.e. "Biodiversity Conservation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo", in future references to this project.

The approval of the project pays tribute to the indispensable role that the staff of the World Natural Heritage sites of DRC are playing in the conservation of those sites during the continuing armed conflict in eastern parts of DRC. The conservation NGOs that are part of the Task Force are co-operating and assisting site staff and will execute UNESCO project activities in Garamba and Virunga National Parks and the Okapi Faunal Reserve. The GTZ-ICCN Project in Kinshasa will be responsible for co-ordinating activities in the Kahuzi Biega National Park. All these four sites are included in the List of World Heritage in Danger. GTZ-ICCN will also assist UNESCO to implement the project in the Salonga National Park of DRC. Salonga's inclusion in the List of World Heritage in Danger is to be discussed by the Committee at its twenty-third session from 29 November to 4 December 1999 in Marakkesh, Morocco.

With regard to the conservation of all five sites, the project will:

  • facilitate UNESCO interactions with relevant authorities, in consultation with United Nations Resident Co-ordinator/SGSR, to highlight and support the role of resident staff in protecting sites of international biodiversity significance;
  • provide salary substitutes and field equipment to enable site staff to carry out their duties effectively;
  • support site-specific and joint training of site- staff to enhance surveillance capacity;
  • monitor status of biodiversity, including those of endangered species unique to the sites;
  • support programmes to integrate indigenous community needs and site protection; and
  • establish sustainable long-term financing mechanisms for the conservation of the sites in DRC.
The UNF support to the DRC project follows the approval, earlier in May 1999, of a UNESCO Project on: "Control and eradication of invasive species: a necessary condition for conserving endemic biodiversity of Galapagos World Heritage site". Since the beginning of the year UNF and UNFIP have consulted UN agencies, including UNESCO, in the preparation of UNF's Biodiversity Programme Strategy. The Strategy, with its principal focus on supporting the conservation of potential and designated World Natural Heritage areas was endorsed by the November 1999 meeting of the UNF Board. This endorsement is due to commit UNF/UNFIP to a multi-year, multi-million dollar engagement in support of World Natural Heritage areas directly relevant to conserving biodiversity of outstanding universal value. UNF and UNFIP intend to implement the Biodiversity Programme Strategy in co- operation with several United Nations agencies including UNESCO.

 

The United Nations Foundation was established in early 1998 to manage the US$ 1 billion donated by the Founder of CNN, Mr. Ted Turner for promoting "UN supported causes". The Foundation manages the donation to support UN projects and programmes in three areas of interest: child-health, women and population, and environment.

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