1.         Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 718)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1996

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

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4264

Corrective measures identified

 Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4264  

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted in 2009, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4264

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1993-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 103,400
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted in the framework of the project “Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict” funded by Belgium: Phase I (2001-2005): about USD 250,000. Phase II (2005-2009): USD 300,000. Phase III (2010-2013): USD 350,000. United Nations Peacebuilding Fund: USD 550,000

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and May 2006: UNESCO World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2009 and 2014: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

 

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/

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 the following address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents/ (pages 50 to 56). The report notes a general improvement in the security situation related to the arrest of many local rebel groups, which has enabled the personnel to greatly increase its patrol efforts. Thus the surveillance coverage rate rose to 48% in 2014 against 25% in 2013.

In its report, the State Party informs of progress in the implementation of the corrective measures, in particular:

The State Party notes that the lack of financial resources remains a major constraint for the implementation of corrective measures.

Following the Reactive Monitoring mission of 2014, the UNESCO Office in Kinshasa mobilized support of USD 550,000 for the property. This support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund aims to strengthen community dialogue and reconcile the Park with local populations.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The security situation has greatly improved thanks to the joint ICCN-FARDC operations. Significant efforts have been made by the management authority to extend surveillance to 48% of the property. It should be noted that prior to the attacks of the Simba in 2011, the surveillance coverage had reached almost 60%. The measures taken against the soldiers involved in poaching are also very encouraging. Security in the region is the primary condition for the ICCN to face the challenges related to the conservation of natural resources of the property, and thereby initiate the rehabilitation of its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). Expanding the coverage of surveillance and regaining control of the site is currently the main priority in order to halt poaching which has become uncontrollable, and the erosion of the OUV of the property.

It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee welcomes the actions taken by ICCN to close mining quarries within the property, evacuate the illegal occupants and to cancel the mining titles encroaching on the property. These actions were made possible through the support of the Governor of the Province, thus demonstrating the renewal of dialogue between the management authority and the political and administrative authorities.

It is also recommended that the World Heritage Committee commend ICCN for its efforts to implement the corrective measures adopted in 2014 at its 38th session. It should be stressed that the lack of resources, financial and technical, remain a major obstacle to conducting other preventive measures to limit the deterioration of the OUV. Patrol efforts focus on critical areas of the property because only two patrol stations are operational. In addition, the immigration and traffic control activities are limited or suspended due to lack of funding. It is recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to make the necessary resources available to the property to ensure effective management, and to appeal to donors to increase their support and recommence the activities that had been suspended following the 2012 attacks.

Finally, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee maintains the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and that it continues to apply 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.8

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.41 adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Welcomes the significant efforts of the State Party to ensure security of the property and expand surveillance coverage, and the measures taken to punish the soldiers involved in poaching, but notes that major parts of the property remain outside the control of the managing authority;
  4. Also notes that restoring security is the precondition for the implementation of corrective measures and restoring the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  5. Urges the State Party to prioritize efforts to further expand the monitoring coverage and regain control of the site to halt poaching and the erosion of the OUV of the property;
  6. Welcomes the steps taken by the Managing Authority with the support of the Governor of the Province to close the mining quarries within the property and to evacuate the illegal occupants, and the steps taken to cancel mining permits encroaching the property, and requests the State Party to close all quarries and cancel all permits rapidly;
  7. Further notes the difficulties reported by property managers to implement corrective actions, due to lack of technical and financial resources, as adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session, to rehabilitate the OUV of the property, and also requests the State Party to make available to the property the necessary means to ensure their implementation;
  8. Calls upon donors to provide necessary financial and technical support to the site's managers to implement corrective actions and to resume operations suspended due to lack of security;
  9. Further 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;
  10. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  11. Also decides to retain the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (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: