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World Heritage Convention

Decision 38 COM 7A.37
Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 63)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7A.4 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Notes with appreciation the efforts deployed by the park staff to continue to ensure the conservation of the property despite life threatening conditions, and expresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed in operations for the protection of the property;
  4. Reiterates its deep concern about the fact that the State Party has not revised the authorizations for petroleum exploration in the Park, as requested in its previous Decisions, as well as about the commencement of oil exploration activities in Lake Edward and the statement by the Minister for Hydrocarbons that the government envisages to proceed with petroleum exploitation inside the property if economically viable oil reserves are confirmed;
  5. Reiterates its request to the State Party to cancel all the oil exploitation permits granted within the property and reiterates its position that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  6. Congratulates the TOTAL Company for its commitment not to explore or exploit for oil or gas in sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, a principle to which the Shell Company had already subscribed;
  7. Takes note of the press statement of SOCO not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the DRC Government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage status, not to conduct any operations in any other World Heritage site and to ensure that any current of future operations in buffer zones adjacent to World Heritage sites do not jeopardize the Outstanding Universal Value for which these sites are listed;
  8. Reiterates its request to States Parties to the Convention to do their utmost to ensure that the mining or petroleum companies established on their territories do not damage World Heritage properties, in accordance with Article 6 of the Convention ;
  9. Notes with concern that while the security situation has improved slightly there is still the presence of different armed groups active in and around the property, resulting in limited progress in the implementation of the corrective measures due to the instability in the region;
  10. Expresses its utmost concern about the limited support park staff is receiving from the Government to address the threats to the property, in particular the continued involvement of the military in various illegal activities such as charcoal making, poaching and illegal fishing, and the lack of support from the authorities to address encroachment on the property, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to implement the commitments made by the Congolese Government in the Kinshasa Declaration of January 2011;
  11. Requests for a clear and written commitment from SOCO, or any other oil company, not to explore nor exploit oil and gas in any World Heritage site, including Virunga National Park;
  12. Urges the State Party to implement the corrective measures as updated by the 2014 joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission:
    1. Cancel all the oil exploitation permits granted within the property,
    2. Take all necessary measures to stop the involvement of the Congolese Army and Navy in the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the park, in particular poaching, charcoal making and fishing,
    3. Strengthen the efforts to disarm all armed groups operating in and around the property,
    4. Take measures at the highest level to enable the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) to continue without political interference, the peaceful evacuation of illegal occupants from the property,
    5. Continue law enforcement focusing on priority areas, and pursue activities to re-establish a system of good governance for fishing activities on Lake Edward,
    6. Pursue communication and awareness-raising actions targeted towards the authorities and local populations,
    7. Pursue actions to eliminate all production of charcoal within the property, and promote alternative energy sources, in particular the development of small scale hydropower outside the property;
  13. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, a detailed report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property, including an update of the progress accomplished in the implementation of the corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
  14. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism of the property;
  15. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Decision Code
38 COM 7A.37
List of World Heritage in Danger
Properties 1
State of conservation reports
2014 Virunga National Park
Report of the Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session (Doha, 2014)
Context of Decision