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Virunga National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 1996*
  • Civil unrest
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Mining
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Political uncertainties,
  • New settlements in the Park,
  • Gold mining,
  • Livestock grazing,
  • Destruction of vegetation,
  • Poaching,
  • Agricultural encroachment,
  • Over-exploitation of fish populations,
  • Lack of financial resources
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1996
Requests approved: 7 (from 1980-1994)
Total amount approved : 177,160 USD
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1996

Virunga National Park was included on the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated on the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching at the site.

The Centre wrote to the authorities requesting that the World Heritage Committee be informed about any action to be undertaken to stop illegal poaching operations within the site and to improve control in the Park. The Centre and IUCN are in contact with several NGOs working in the area and a mission was organized together with WWF to the site in order to evaluate its state of conservation and to strengthen cooperation between the different international assistance agencies working to protect the site. The mission was carried out from 15 to 30 April 1996 and a report will be made available to the Bureau.

Action Required

Taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees, the Bureau expressed its concern about the continuing degradation of the Park and recommended to the Committee to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1996

Virunga National Park was included on the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated on the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching at the site.

The Centre wrote to the authorities requesting that the World Heritage Committee be informed about any action to be undertaken to stop illegal poaching operations within the site and to improve control in the Park. The Centre and IUCN are in contact with several NGOs working in the area and a mission was organized together with WWF to the site in order to evaluate its state of conservation and to strengthen cooperation between the different international assistance agencies working to protect the site. The mission was carried out from 15 to 30 April 1996 and the results of this mission were reported to the twentieth session of the Bureau, including priorities for granting international assistance. No request for assistance has been received from the authorities of Zaire at the time of the preparation of this document.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 1996

The Committee may wish to adopt the following:

“Taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees, the Bureau may wish to express its concern about the continuing degradation of the Park and may wish to recommend to the Committee to encourage the authorities to prepare the appropriate international assistance requests and to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.”

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1996
20 BUR IV.7
Virunga National Park (Zaire)

The Bureau recalled that Virunga National Park was included on the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated on the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing deforestation and poaching within its boundaries.

The Centre wrote to the authorities requesting that the World Heritage Committee be informed about any action to be undertaken to stop poaching operations within the site and to improve control in the Park. The Centre and IUCN are in contact with several NGOs working in the area and a mission was organized together with WWF to the site in order to evaluate its state of conservation and to strengthen cooperation between the different international assistance agencies working to protect the site. The mission was carried out from 15 to 30 April 1996 and the report indicates serious threats to the site, including impacts due to the location of refugee camps involving more than 700,000 persons in the vicinity of the Park (deforestation, poaching etc.). The report indicates detailed recommendations for an urgent safeguarding plan, collaboration between different organizations (WWF, GTZ, UNHCR, DNDP, GEF and UNESCO) as well as specific recommendations for international assistance requests to be submitted by the authorities.

Taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees, the Bureau expressed its concern about the continuing degradation of the Park and recommended to the Committee to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

20 BUR IX.A
Requests for International Assistance: Technical Cooperation - Natural Heritage

Requests approved by the Bureau

Conservation Strategy and Preparation of a Management Plan for the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras)

In the light of the state of conservation report presented on this site, the Bureau approved an amount of US$ 30,000 for the
elaboration of a management plan for the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) subject to the submission of a detailed budget outline for this request.

Requests not approved by the Bureau

Architectural Design of the Interpretation Centre at the Galapagos National Park (Ecuador) (US$ 25,900)
The Bureau recalled the recent mission to the Galapagos Islands and recommended that the Galapagos National Park authorities submit a request to the next Bureau session in line with the orientations identified by the fact-finding mission to the Galapagos Islands led by the Chairperson.

Technical Assistance for Virunga National Park (Zaire) (US$100,000)

The Bureau did not recommend this request to be approved by the Committee in the light of the findings of the recent mission to this site, which is on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Bureau encouraged the State Party to submit a revised request in particular for a safeguarding plan for Virunga National Park as recommended by the expert mission.

20 COM VII.C.22
SOC: Virunga National Park (Zaire)

VII.22 Virunga National Park (Zaire)

The Committee recalled that Virunga National Park was included on the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1994, due to the tragic events in Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country. Virunga National Park, situated on the border between Rwanda and Uganda, has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees, causing illegal extraction of wood and poaching at the site.

The Centre wrote to the authorities requesting that the World Heritage Committee be informed about any action to be undertaken to stop illegal operations within the site and to improve control in the Park. The Centre and IUCN are in contact with several NGOs working in the area and a mission was organized together with WWF to the site in order to evaluate its state of conservation and to strengthen cooperation between the different international assistance agencies working to protect the site. The mission was carried out from 15 to 30 April 1996 and the results were reported to the twentieth session of the Bureau, including priorities for granting international assistance.

The Secretariat informed the Committee on the current situation which has deteriorated due to the influx of refugees into the Park. Different UN and relief agencies present in the region were contacted by the Centre and a meeting with GTZ representatives was organized on 2 December 1996 in UNESCO Headquarters. Discussions were also held with the Canadian authorities on including a conservation specialist in the Canadian-led forces and UNHCR teams.

The Committee had considerable discussion on this human tragedy and recalled the opening speech by the Director-General in which he emphasized that while protecting natural and cultural sites, one should never lose sight of protecting human life, which is the top priority. The Committee underlined the special situation in Zaire and called upon the international community to help resolve this tragic situation.

Taking into account the presence of thousands of refugees, the Committee expressed its deep concern about the continuing degradation of the Park and the human tragedy and encouraged the Centre to work with the authorities for the coordination of international assistance and to retain the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Report year: 1996
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(x)
Danger List (dates): 1994-present
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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