Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict: Protecting World Heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
A program aimed at preserving the integrity of World Heritage natural Sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo represent half of the total area of tropical rainforest in Africa. The outstanding biodiversity of the Congolese forests, which provide shelter for many endemic species such as the bonobo, the mountain gorilla and the okapi, has justified the inscription, between 1979 and 1996, of five protected areas of the country on the World Heritage List. Facing threats which could have negative effects on its World Heritage values, these five Sites have been inscribed, between 1994 and 1999, on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
History of the program
In 2000, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre initiated the programme Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict: Protecting World Heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so as to preserve the five World Heritage Sites’ integrity in a protracted conflict situation.
The objective of the programme is to avoid the loss of the Outstanding Universal Value of the five Sites and to work towards favorable conditions for their withdrawal from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The programme is implemented with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) - an organism in charge of the management of protected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, and with the active involvement of Conservation NGOs partners of the ICCN.
The first phase of the program has focused on maintaining conservation activities in the five sites and establishing a “Diplomacy of Conservation” (a political and diplomatic support for the sites’ conservation). Relying on the World Heritage Convention, the programme has done everything to obtain the cooperation of the different parties involved in the conflict in order to achieve the safeguard of the World Heritage sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The conference was held from the 13th to 17th of September of 2004, has gathered all the programme’s partners to present the review of the first phase of the programme, and to raise additional funds to launch the second phase. More than 50 million dollars was pledged by donors.
During the second phase of the project, the programme supported the implementation of emergency action plans in the five Congolese sites, while continuing to implement « Diplomacy of Conservation ». In a context of high security risks linked to the presence of armed groups in the Eastern Congo, emergency action plans have been developed for the three pilot sites: Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga National Parks and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. In Garamba National Park, a strategy of community conservation has been developed.
The third phase is aimed at setting the necessary conditions for the rehabilitation of the five Congolese sites, mainly through the finalization of emergency action plans, and strengthening the element of “Diplomacy of Conservation”. This phase was mainly about implementing the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee in consultation with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and following the evolution of the sites’ State of Conservation, so as to allow their withdrawal from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
High-level Meeting between the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and UNESCO
A key event of this phase was the holding of a High-level Meeting between the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and UNESCO, on 14 January of 2011 in Kinshasa. This meeting, chaired by the Congolese Prime Minister, Adolphe Muzito, and by UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, aimed at exploring ways to strengthen the protection of the five Congolese sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger. A significant result of this meeting is the adoption of the Kinshasa Declaration’s, which marks Congolese government’s involvement in implementing the corrective measures decided by the World Heritage Committee for the rehabilitation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the endangered sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with UNESCO’s support.
Ratification of the World Heritage Convention by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
1979, 1980, 1984, 1996
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List of Virunga, Kahuzi-Biega, Garamba, Salonga National Parks and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
1994 - 1999
Inscriptions of the five sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation’s appeal for international mobilization in order to preserve the five Congolese sites threatened by the generalization of the Great Lakes Conflict.
2000 – 2005
First phase of the programme‘s implementation.
Organization of the international conference “Promoting and Preserving Congolese Heritage: Linking biological and cultural diversity” to close the first phase of the programme and launch the second one.
2005 - 2010
Implementation of the second phase of the programme.
2010 - 2013
Implementation of the third phase of the programme.
High-level Meeting between the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and UNESCO. Adoption of the Kinshasa’s Declaration.
Activities implemented by UNESCO and its partners through the framework of the programme
Emergency Actions supported by UNESCO
Garamba National Park
Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Salonga National Park
Virunga National Park
Okapi Wildlife Reserve
- Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN)
- African Parks Network (APN)
- African Conservation Fund (ACF)
- Gilman International Conservation (GIC)
- Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- Fauna and Flora International (FFI)
- International Rhino Fund (IRF)
- Milwaukee Zoological Society (ZSM)
- International Programme for the Gorillas Conservation (PICG)
- Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS)
- London Zoological Society (ZSL)
- German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
- African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
- International Day of Forests 2020 21-Mar-2020
- Save Virunga’s elephants 18-Mar-2015
- [in French only] Le braconnage s’intensifie dans le Parc National de la Garamba 17-Jul-2014
- The Director-General of UNESCO Expresses Deep Concern at the Rising Violence in the Central African Republic, at the Heart of the Sangha Trinational Site 03-May-2013
- RRF grant awarded to rebuilt the Okapi Wildlife Reserve 20-Jul-2012