Multi-lateral meetings for the strengthening of security around the Garamba National Park (DRC)
On 24 and 26 October 2016, at the invitation of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo, represented by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature - ICCN), met with Permanent Delegates from Uganda, Central African Republic and South Sudan, at UNESCO Headquarters to discuss the state of conservation of Garamba National Park (GNP), a World Heritage property that has witnessed increased insecurity and poaching in recent years.
Garamba National Park is located in the savannah of the Eastern Province, in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its location makes it particularly vulnerable in light of the presence of groups of poachers. Despite the constant efforts of ICCN and the "African Parks Network" (APN - the managing authority mandated by ICCN), the park’s staff has to contend with heavily armed groups that have proven to be professional poachers. Since 2014, attacks by these groups have unfortunately resulted in the deaths of over 15 rangers of Garamba National Park rangers.
In response to this situation, the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 39 COM 7A.6 (Bonn, 2015) and 40 COM 7A.37 (Istanbul, 2016) requested UNESCO " to organize, in cooperation with United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), a high-level meeting between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan, as well as Central African Republic and other potential stakeholders on how to improve security in the region and address the poaching issue”.
The meetings follow an initial consultation held in July 2016 in Istanbul during the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee. That encounter enabled the representatives of the States Parties present to exchange on the threat of poaching affecting Garamba National Park and on the general issue of insecurity in the region. These discussions will lead to a high-level meeting, involving all relevant stakeholders and institutions concerned , with a view to implementing the Decisions of the World Heritage Committee, as well as ,elaborating solutions to combat poaching at the regional level as this scourge adversely affects GNP and many other World Heritages properties in Africa.
Garamba National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7A.Add,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7A.8, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Commends the efforts of the staff of the property who continue their actions for the conservation of the property, often at great risk, and expresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards and soldiers killed in operations for the protection of the property;
- Expresses its deepest concern over continuing insecurity around the property and ongoing poaching pressure, particularly targeted at elephants and driven by international ivory trafficking;
- Reiterates its great concern that the northern white rhino is now considered to be extinct in the property and in the wild, that populations of elephants and other key species have continued to decline and Congolese giraffe are now reaching critically low numbers, and as a result the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property could be lost if urgent action to reverse the downward population trends is not taken;
- Also commends the State Party, particularly the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) and its partner, African Parks Network for their continuous efforts to further strengthen law enforcement operations by extending aerial and ground surveillance to cover the entire property as well as adjacent Hunting Areas that serve as important buffer zones for the property;
- Requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the corrective measures, updated by the 2016 mission, as follows:
- Further strengthen anti-poaching efforts through continued close collaboration with the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and development of highly skilled, motivated and properly equipped field personnel,
- Further enhance trans-boundary cooperation with South Sudan, particularly in relation to the management of adjacent Lantoto National Park, and efforts to curb poaching and illegal cross-border trade in wildlife products,
- Complete the establishment and deployment of a team of at least 200 operational guards incorporating carefully selected elements from FARDC,
- Maintain an effective year-round surveillance of the entire park and at least 50% of the surrounding Hunting Areas, increasing the extent and frequency of ground patrols whilst maintaining the existing levels of aerial surveillance,
- Establish a conservation strategy for the Hunting Areas and develop a recognized Buffer Zone for the World Heritage property which serves to strengthen the protection of the property’s OUV,
- Support and strengthen economic development activities for communities around the property to promote sustainable livelihoods, reduce dependence on park resources and ensure that neighbouring communities understand and support conservation efforts,
- Maintain close surveillance of the few remaining Congo giraffe and establish appropriate measures to ensure their protection,
- Further develop the park’s infrastructure, extending the road network, and installing additional radio repeater stations, observation posts and other installations to facilitate efficient and effective protection and management of the entire property, especially the northern sectors,
- Work towards sustainable financing of park management, identifying and developing a range of income sources, including trust funds, business and tourism opportunities;
- Takes notes of the revision proposed by the 2016 mission of the indicators of the draft Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, the final version of the DSOCR for adoption by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017;
- Also takes note of the ongoing consultation carried out by UNESCO in view of convening a meeting on the security in the region, and reiterates its invitation to the Director-General of UNESCO to organize, in cooperation with United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), a high-level meeting between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan, as well as Central African Republic and other potential stakeholders on how to improve security in the region and address the poaching issue;
- Further requests 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 above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017;
- Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism to the property;
- Also decides to retain Garamba National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.39 adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
Expresses its utmost concern about the renewed poaching crisis which erupted in April 2014 and which led to the poaching of at least 164 elephants and three Congo giraffes and expresses its most sincere condolences to the family of the guard killed in operations for the protection of the property;
Notes with great concern that the probable extinction of the Northern White Rhino in the property and the continued erosion of the populations of other wildlife species, in particular the loss of more than 90% of the elephant population and the continued decline of the relict population of Congolese giraffe, if not halted soon, could lead to an irreversible loss of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
Requests the State Party to cooperate with other States Parties and international technical organizations, such as IUCN, to outline a population recovery plan and call for support of the international community in addressing the loss of endangered species;
Commends the State Party, in particular the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) and the African Parks Foundation, for their efforts to strengthen anti-poaching efforts to address this crisis, by reorganizing anti-poaching operations, bringing in additional field equipment and a helicopter to enable better aerial support for anti-poaching activities and urges the State Party to give the utmost priority to halting the poaching crisis;
Welcomes the increased cooperation with the Congolese Army (FARDC), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to restore security in the region, control the armed groups, stop cross-border incursions and address the poaching crisis;
Also expresses its utmost concern about continued reports of the use of helicopters and the alleged involvement of elements of the army in elephant poaching in the property;
Invites the Director-General of UNESCO to call on the State Party as well as neighbouring States, in particular Uganda and South Sudan, to ensure that military operations in the region do not impact on the OUV of the property and to organize in cooperation with MONUSCO a high-level meeting between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and South Sudan and other potential stakeholders on how to improve security in the region and address the poaching issue;
Further expresses its concern about the increased pressure on the hunting areas adjacent to the property, in particular from artisanal mining, and reiterates its request to the State Party to develop a conservation strategy for the hunting areas so that they can act as buffer zones, given their importance for the conservation of the OUV of the property, including the conditions of integrity;
Also urges the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the corrective measures to rehabilitate the OUV of the property;
Also reiterates its request to the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to re-asses its state of conservation, to update the corrective measures and establish a new timeframe for their implementation and to finalize the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger;
Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism of the property;
Also decides to retain the Garamba National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.