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World Heritage Convention

Decision 45 COM 7B.4
Okavango Delta (Botswana) (N 1432)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 40 COM 7B.78, 42 COM 7B.89 and 44 COM 7B.80 adopted at its 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 42nd (Manama, 2018) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the adoption of the Okavango Delta Management Plan 2021-2027, developed with International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund, and which addresses the past Committee requests on community concerns and the management of invasive alien species, and encourages the State Party to ensure sufficient financial and human resources for its implementation;
  4. Notes progress made to rationalise the use of veterinary fences, including through the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in line with the Committee’s decisions, and wastewater management, and requests the State Party to continue efforts to reduce the numbers of fences where possible to facilitate free movement of wildlife;
  5. Whilst noting the results of the 2018 aerial wildlife survey that indicate an increase of many wildlife populations, expresses its concern over the reported increase in poaching, in particular of elephants and rhinos, and welcomes  the survey conducted by the State Party in partnership with KAZA TFCA countries of Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2022 as part of a three-year cycle which shows a healthy  elephant population and a reduction in rhino poaching, and encourages the State Party to increase efforts to strengthen the efficiency of anti-poaching and address illegal trafficking of ivory and rhino horn, and invites the State Party to share the results of the aforementioned surveys as soon as possible with the World Heritage Centre;
  6. Notes that the threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking also needs to be addressed in a regional context, with emphasis on preserving and restoring ecosystem connectivity, and encourages the relevant States Parties to further strengthen transboundary cooperation including through the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) and to effectively implement their commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
  7. Notes with concern the increasingly visible impacts of climate change resulting in environmental changes and reducing the hydrological flow, and considers that these changes could be further exacerbated by developments in the Cubango-Okavango River Basin (CORB), potentially impacting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  8. Also welcomes the continuous cooperation between the States Parties of Botswana, Angola and Namibia through the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), the finalized guidelines on the implementation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on shared watercourses, and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the CORB reported for completion in 2022, which can support decision-making amidst the development pressure expected to grow in the region, and further requests the State Party to submit the documents to the World Heritage Centre as soon as they are available;
  9. Also encourages the States Parties of Botswana, Angola and Namibia to continue their cooperation for the potential transboundary extension of the property to include key areas, which would contribute to a better protection of the OUV and in particular the integrity of the property;
  10. Thanks the international community supporting the conservation of the property through the KAZA TFCA initiative, and also the Governments of Flanders (Belgium) and Norway for supporting the initiatives to enhance transboundary cooperation and community involvement through the World Heritage Centre;
  11. Reiterates its utmost concern about the advancement of the oil and gas exploration activities, located outside the buffer zone, in the environmentally sensitive upstream areas of the Okavango Delta in northwestern Botswana and northeastern Namibia, that may pose significant risks to the interconnected water system and the ecosystem, and could hence affect the property’s OUV;
  12. Reiterates its request to the States Parties of Botswana, Angola and Namibia to ensure that petroleum exploration and other large-scale development projects with potential adverse impact on the OUV of the property are subject to rigorous and critical prior review, including through EIAs that correspond to international standards, including an assessment of social impacts and a review of potential impacts on the World Heritage property, in conformity with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage context, and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN;
  13. Urges the State Party of Namibia to submit the EIA and the Environment Management Plan (EMP) for the on-going oil exploration activities in the CORB to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN without further delay;
  14. Further reiterates its position that mineral exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, which is supported by the International Council of Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Position Statement of not undertaking such activities within World Heritage properties;
  15. Requests moreover the State Party to ensure that the property’s OUV is explicitly referred to in the decommissioning and rehabilitation programme for the borrow pits of the Okavango River Bridge to remedy any impact on the fragile wetland ecosystem, that ecological monitoring and management is included in the project EMP, and that all future projects with a potential negative impact on the property’s OUV are subject to relevant impact assessments in accordance with Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines;
  16. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session.
Decision Code
45 COM 7B.4
States Parties 1
Properties 1
State of conservation reports
2023 Okavango Delta
Context of Decision
Other Documents (1)
Amended draft decision 45 COM 7B.4