VIII.6 World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
The Committee noted detailed information on the state of conservation of the five sites in the DRC, i.e. Virunga, Garamba and Kahuzi Biega and Salonga National Parks and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, reported from pages 2 to 5 of the document WHC-2000/CONF.204/9. Furthermore, the Committee noted the following additional information reported by the Centre:
(1) In addition to the UNOMC, contacts have been established with members of a UN Panel conducting a Probe on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in DRC and located at the UN complex in Nairobi, Kenya. Information on the state of conservation of the five sites will be regularly transmitted to the UN Panel mentioned above for appropriate action;
(2) A Co-ordination Unit for the UNESCO/DRC/UNFUNFIP Project has been operational in Nairobi, Kenya since 10 September 2000, assisted by the services of a consultant and an "ICCN Homologue" seconded by ICCN, Kinshasa. Recruitment of a Project Co-ordinator had been delayed but is likely to finalized before the end of the first quarter of 2001;
(3) A meeting of technical personnel representing the three different governance regimes within the territory of the DRC was convened from 8 to 10 November 2000 in Nairobi, Kenya. The three technical personnel have signed a formal agreement of co-operation that will facilitate the monitoring of the state of conservation of the sites, execution of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP Project, information and material exchange between sites and the organization and conduct of joint activities involving staff from the five sites. Furthermore, the three authorities have also agreed to co-ordinate together movements and career development options for ICCN personnel, despite prevailing administrative and political barriers to such coordination;
(4) Following a meeting on 28 September 2000, the Director-General of UNESCO and the Executive Director of UNEP expressed an interest to lead a high-level mission to the capitals of the three countries (i.e. Kinshasa, Kigali and Kampala) implicated in the war in eastern DRC to meet with the Heads of States and other important personalities and draw their attention to the need to respect international law and strengthen conservation of the all World Heritage sites in the area, and particularly those in eastern DRC. The possibility of fielding such a mission will be further pursued by the Centre in co-operation with relevant partners of UNESCO under the framework of activities for executing the UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP Project. The three technical authorities located in the three different regions of DRC (see point 3 above) have committed to facilitate such a high-level diplomatic mission to the fullest extent possible, if and when it is fielded.
IUCN underlined the significance and the timeliness of the financial support provided by the UN Foundation to support the work of site personnel and commended the dedication and commitment of the site staff to protect the sites.
The Committee noted with satisfaction that the Centre has established contracts with project partners for payment of salaries, performance related bonuses and medical and food rations to site staff in all of the five World Heritage sites and transfer of funds to benefit site staff are about to begin soon. The UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP project has set aside funds for the continuation of such payments to site staff over a period of four years; i.e. until October 2004. The Committee also noted with appreciation the support of the Government of Belgium for a project focusing on providing support to local communities in and around the five sites to enable them to contribute towards their protection. The Government of Belgium is expected to provide a sum of US$ 500,000 for the four-year project that is expected to begin in early 2001.
The Centre, based on information received from partners of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP Project and a variety of other sources, informed the Committee that the state of conservation in Garamba and Virunga National Parks was relatively good. In Okapi, recent assistance from military authorities in the region had enabled staff of the Wildlife Reserve to disarm poaching gangs and improve conservation prospects. Salonga, though outside of the war zone and still accessible to ICCN-Kinshasa, is significantly threatened by illegal poaching. The situation in Kahuzi Biega is the most disconcerting, as staff do not have access to nearly 90% of the Park's surface area.
The Committee requested the Centre to further develop its relations and explore optimal ways of liaising with UNOMC and other appropriate bodies, like the UN Panel undertaking a Probe on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in DRC, in order to promote the links between peace-building and World Heritage conservation in DRC and in neighbouring countries. The Committee recommended that the Centre, in co-operation with ICCN and other partners, ensure effective execution of the UNESCO/DRC/UNF-UNFIP project emphasizing and prioritizing project components that strengthen the work of site staff. The Committee urged the Centre to work with relevant administrative and support units of UNESCO to find ways and means to ensure rapid and effective transfer of funds via project partners to on-site beneficiaries who are attempting to protect World Heritage sites in a zone of high security risks. The Committee thanked and welcomed the interest of the Government of Belgium to support a project that would enable local communities to work with site staff to support conservation of the five sites, and urged UNESCO and the Centre to expedite finalisation of negotiations with Belgium to enable early transfer of assistance to local communities resident near the five sites. The Committee decided that all five sites be retained in the List of World Heritage in Danger.