1.         Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 137)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1997-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

A draft has been developed during the 2009 reactive monitoring mission (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/documents), but the indicators still need to be quantified based on the results of a census of large mammals.

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4081

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet established

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 119,270
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 980,000 from the United Nations Foundation (UNF), and the Governments of Italy and Belgium and by the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) 

Previous monitoring missions

1996-2006: several World Heritage Centre missions in the framework of the DRC Programme; December 2009: joint IUCN/World Heritage Centre Reactive Monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 17 February 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/documents/  (pages 10 to 30).

The report indicates an improvement in the security situation: the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is no longer active in the property and several local rebel groups have surrendered. However, some other groups are causing insecurity conditions in the Kasese and Itebero sections, in the lowland sector. This improvement has allowed the staff of the property to strengthen the surveillance mechanism and the level of coverage has increased to 43% in 2014 (29% in 2013).

Although the sectors of Kasese and Itebero are still occupied by rebels, this does not hinder the work of the guards of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN).

The State Party indicates progress in the implementation of the corrective measures:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The improvement in the security conditions and the evacuation of some armed groups have permitted the renewed control of certain formerly occupied sectors, a significant increase in the level of surveillance coverage and the evacuation of a part of the artisanal mining exploitations. However, some zones are still inaccessible and surveillance coverage remains less than half of the property. The reestablishment of security remains the condition sine qua non for the implementation of the corrective measures and the restoration of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.

It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee notes with satisfaction the important efforts undertaken by the State Party to strengthen surveillance and mobilize funds, as well as the actions to evacuate the illegal mining quarries and ensure the security of the property.

The lack of progress in the evacuation of the biological corridor, between the lowland and highland sectors, remains an important concern. It is also important to accelerate the implementation of the strategy for the resolution of conflicts and the development of a zoning plan for the property. It is hoped that the « National Forum on Governance and Enhancement » will result in the adhesion of all the actors of the PGAG and allow in the medium term the evacuation of the ecological corridor and the restoration of plant species of the property to retain the values and the conditions of integrity. It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee requests the State Party to ensure that the options identified guarantee the conservation of the OUV.

It is also recommended that the Committee welcomes the commencement of the inventory work of the property, requested many years ago. The results of these studies are crucial to enable the evaluation of the state of conservation of the OUV of the property. It is not possible to draw definite conclusions based on information limited to the preliminary data of the inventory exercise. In the highland sector, the results concerning the gorillas appear encouraging, with a slight increase of the population. However, the quasi absence of gorillas in the west Nzovu sector and the extremely rare viewing of elephants is very worrying. It indicates that the impact of the presence of armed groups in the lowland sector has caused an important erosion of the OUV. It is hoped that the results will be more encouraging in the sectors that have not yet been inventoried.

 It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee reiterates its request to the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property, update the corrective measures, establish a timeframe for their implementation and finalize the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, as soon as the results of the inventory are available.

Finally, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism.

General Decision on the properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Current conservation issues

On 17 February 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the implementation of Decision 38 COM 7A.42, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/136/documents/ (pages 7– 9). The report notes the following progress in the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration:

The report further notes that the new Hydrocarbons Code was adopted by both the Parliament and the Senate, but will still be discussed in the mixed Committee of the two Chambers, allowing for further discussion on Article 160, which foresees the possibility of degazetment of protected areas to allow for oil exploitation.

In relation to the oil exploration in Virunga, it is noted that the Government is planning to submit to the World Heritage Centre a proposal with “options for exception mechanisms for further negotiation”. This seems to be in line with the reply by the Prime Minister to the letter of 8 January by the Delegation Heads of the European Union, World Bank, UNESCO and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ambassadors of Germany and Canada, where he pointed out that in the event the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would want to go forward with oil exploitation, it would seek a minor boundary modification (see also report on Virunga National Park, item 4 of Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The statement by the Vice Prime Minister of DRC reiterating the commitment of the Government to implement the Kinshasa Declaration should be welcomed. In particular, it is encouraging that concrete measures have been taken to implement one of the most important elements of the Declaration, namely to create the conditions for implementation of the corrective measures by securing the sites.

The intention to create a special anti-poaching brigade is also noted. Widespread poaching is without doubt the single most important threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of all five properties. Results of the different inventories clearly show that since the start of the conflict, the biodiversity values of the properties have been seriously affected and their populations of emblematic species, such as Northern White Rhino, Okapi, Grauer’s Gorilla, Bonobo and Elephant, were severely reduced. Decisive action is needed to turn the tide. Recently, the increasing demand for ivory has in particular further increased pressure on the remaining Elephant populations. It is estimated that the DRC Elephant population, most of which is living in the World Heritage properties, has dwindled by over 90%, from more than 100 000 at the start of the 1980s to less than 10 000 today. Securing the sites and strengthening anti-poaching efforts are important, but additional efforts will be needed in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to identify and take legal action against the criminal networks involved in the illegal traffic. Efforts to reduce demand in consumer countries are also needed.

The reported efforts to ensure that the mining cadastre uses accurate mapping information of the properties to avoid the attribution of mining concessions overlapping with the properties also responds to a long standing demand of the Committee. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its requests to the State Party to annul all existing permits, which overlap with any of the properties.

It is also recommended that the Committee express its utmost concern about Article 160 of the new Code for Hydrocarbons, which foresees the possibility of degazetting protected areas, including World Heritage properties, as well as the statement made by the Prime Minister of DRC that the State Party might seek a boundary modification of Virunga National Park to allow for oil exploration activities to proceed. These are in clear contradiction to the Kinshasa Declaration, which committed to uphold the protection status of the properties. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its position on this issue, as expressed in previous decisions.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.5

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.38, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Warmly welcomes the efforts of the State Party in securing the property, strengthening surveillance and closing down the artisanal mining quarries, in accordance with the Kinshasa Declaration of January 2011, and encourages the State Party to ensure the continuity of its efforts;
  4. Notes that the restoration of security is the pre-condition for the implementation of the corrective measures and the restoration of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  5. Notes with concern the lack of progress in the evacuation of the ecological corridor, crucial to ensure the ecological continuity between the highland and lowland sectors, and reiterates its request to the State Party to cancel the land permits illegally granted within the property, to evacuate the farms installed illegally and to restore the plant species and the connectivity;
  6. Takes note of the studies in progress on the zoning of the property and the convening of the “National Forum on Governance and Enhancement of the Property”, and requests the State Party to ensure that the recommendations issued and the options identified concerning the evacuation of the corridor and the zoning of the property guarantee the conservation of the OUV of the property;
  7. Welcomes the commencement of the inventory of large mammals throughout the property, permitting an assessment of the state of conservation of its OUV, but expresses its utmost concern concerning the quasi absence of the gorillas in the western Nzovu sector and the extremely low level of viewing of elephants that indicates that the impact of the presence of armed groups in the lowland sector has caused an important erosion of the OUV;
  8. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission as soon as the results of the inventory are available, to assess its state of conservation, update the corrective measures, and establish a timeframe for the implementation and the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  9. Also 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 points, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  10. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism to the property;
  11. Also decides to retain the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.9

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.42, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014) and reaffirming the need to implement the Kinshasa Declaration adopted in 2011,
  3. Welcomes the statement by the Vice Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reiterating the commitment of the State Party to implement the Kinshasa Declaration, as well as the decision by the National Superior Defence Council to instruct the army to strengthen security in the properties;
  4. Notes with appreciation the efforts to ensure that the mining cadastre uses accurate mapping information of the properties to avoid that mining concessions attributed overlap with the properties, and reiterates its requests to the State Party to cancel all existing permits, which overlap with any of the five properties;
  5. Considers that widespread poaching is the single most significant threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of all five properties, also welcomes the intention to create a special anti-poaching brigade, but notes that additional efforts will be needed, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to identify and take legal action against the criminal networks involved in the illegal traffic of species of fauna and their products, in particular ivory;
  6. Calls upon the States Parties which are transit and destination countries for ivory and rhino horn, to support the State Party to halt the illegal trade in ivory and other illegal wildlife products, in particular through the implementation of the CITES;
  7. Reiterates its utmost concern about the Hydrocarbons Code that would make oil exploitation activities in protected areas possible, and about the statement by the Prime Minster of DRC that the State Party might seek a boundary modification of Virunga National Park to allow for oil exploration activities to proceed;
  8. Also reiterates its requests to the State Party to ensure that the protection status of the World Heritage properties be maintained and to annul all oil exploration concessions overlapping with any of the five properties, and reiterates its position that mining, oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
  9. Urges the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the commitments made in the Kinshasa Declaration and to ensure the execution of the Strategic Plan of Action, and further reiterates its request to the State Party to approve the decree to formalize the creation of an inter-ministerial committee and allocate the necessary technical and financial means to ensure adequate monitoring in the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration;
  10. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, a detailed report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, the situation regarding mining, oil and gas exploration and exploitation titles that overlap with World Heritage properties, and the Hydrocarbons Code, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-15/39.COM/7A and WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: