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World Heritage Convention

Decision 40 COM 7A.41
Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 63)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 7A.4 and 39 COM 7A.9, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Addresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards and the military killed during operations for the protection of the property;
  4. Regrets that the State Party has not confirmed its commitment not to authorize new petroleum exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of the property, as was established at the time of inscription on the World Heritage List in 1979, and reiterates its request to the State Party to cancel the petroleum concessions granted inside the property;
  5. Reiterates its position that oil and gas exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, which is supported by the commitments made by industry leaders such as Shell and Total not to undertake such activities within World Heritage properties;
  6. Expresses its utmost concern as regards the decision of the State Party of Uganda to include the Ngaji block in the calls for tender for the future petroleum exploration projects, this block being located in the Ugandan part of Lake Edward bordering the property, and recalls its obligations contained in Article 6.3 of the Convention, stating that “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to take any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 situated on the territory of other States Parties to this Convention”;
  7. Recalling that the importance of Lake Edward is mentioned several times in the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, considers that any activity linked to petroleum on Lake Edward is highly likely to damage the OUV of the property as well as its integrity, including by negative impacts on the transboundary waters; and urgently requests the State Party of Uganda to refrain from granting petroleum exploration permits for the Ngaji block;
  8. Also requests the State Party of Uganda to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, the report of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that was undertaken for oil and gas operations in the Albertine Graben;
  9. Encourges the States Parties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda to strengthen their cooperation around the “Grand Virunga” complex, including Lake Edward, and eventually consider the preparation of a new proposal for inscription for a transboundary extension of the property to reinforce its values and integrity;
  10. Also urges the States Parties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda to firmly commit not to authorize any petroleum exploration or exploitation at Lake Edward;
  11. Notes with satisfaction the progress accomplished by the State Party regarding the combat against encroachment, as well as the encouraging results of the ecological monitoring showing an increase in the mountain gorilla population accustomed to humans, a beginning of restoration of the hippopotamus population and a stabilisation of elephant poaching;
  12. Notes with concern the invader coalitions and the launching of simultaneous actions of village extensions into the Park, also reiterates its request to the State Party to implement the commitments undertaken in the Kinshasa Declaration of January 2011, in particular the peaceful evacuation of illegal occupants in the properties;
  13. Congratulates the “Virunga Alliance” initiative for its work towards the sustainable economic development of the property through the enhancement of the ecosystemic services of the park, and welcomes the support provided to local populations and to the provincial and national authorities and thanks the financial donors and the private sector for their support in the implementation of this programme;
  14. Endorses the State Party’s initiative to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Advisory mission to ascertain the progress and efforts made in the management of the property;
  15. Further equests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the corrective measures and the above points, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017;
  16. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism;
  17. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Decision Code
40 COM 7A.41
Conservation, List of World Heritage in Danger
Properties 1
State of conservation reports
2016 Virunga National Park
Report of the Decisions adopted during the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016)
Context of Decision