1.         Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 63)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1994-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/4338

Corrective measures identified

Adopted in 2011, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4338
Revised in 2014, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5979
Updated in 2018, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7224 

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7224 

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-2005)
Total amount approved: USD 253,560
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,802,300 from the United Nations Foundation and the Governments of Italy, Belgium and Spain as well as the Rapid Response Facility (RRF)

Previous monitoring missions

April 1996 - March 2006 - December 2010: World Heritage Centre Reactive Monitoring mission; August 2007: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reinforced Monitoring mission; March 2014: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN/Ramsar Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2018: 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/63/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 15 March 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents, containing the following information:

During a meeting with the World Heritage Centre in July 2018, ICCN confirmed the establishment of an Interministerial Commission with a view to studying the possibility of modifying the boundaries of the protected areas to authorize extractive activities. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

Due to the presence of armed groups, security remains a major concern because it threatens the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and its integrity through the illegal exploitation of the natural resources and poaching. This situation has once again led to the loss of 9 guards and a driver in 2018. It is recommended that the Committee address its sincere condolences to the families of the guards.

Despite this difficult context, surveillance activities have continued to be carried out thanks to the increase in the number of guards, the strengthening of collaboration with the FARDC, and efforts in management and law enforcement. It is encouraging to note a significant increase in the zones covered by the patrols in 2018.  However, it is important to recall, as in the earlier report, that the evacuation of the rebel groups and the re-establishment of law are conditions sine qua none to ensure adequate surveillance of the property and fully protect its OUV.

It is also encouraging that deployment operations have resulted in the recovery of the Mont Tshiabirimu zone, the only zone with a Grauer gorilla population. However, the illegal occupation of a fifth of the area of the Park remains an important concern that threatens its integrity. It is imperative to envisage a strategy to halt the encroachments as well as anticipating the recovery of the earlier-invaded zones in the western part of Lake Edward and Kirolirwe. The implementation of such a strategy requires a clear political will at the local, national and regional levels.

These invasions are, among others, caused by over-population problems and poverty following years of crisis and conflicts. The implementation of the Alliance Virunga activities for the economic and social development of north Kivu to reduce poverty and respond to energy needs of the local populations of the property could contribute to the implementation of this strategy.

While noting the renewal of unsustainable fishing practices and poaching of hippopotamuses around Lake Edward, the establishment of a new maritime command centre and a new governance fishing convention to respond to these threats is welcomed.

The results of the biological inventories that were carried out in 2018 show that poaching continues causing serious impacts on the elephant and hippopotamus populations. Only the gorilla population displays an increase of nearly 100 individuals in comparison to the 2010 census. The State Party should be congratulated for its efforts to protect this species and its habitat, even during the security crisis.

The State Party notes that no petroleum activities have been observed in 2018. Nevertheless, the possibility of carrying out petroleum exploration activities is still current in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (cf. report on Salonga National Park). The establishment by the former government of an Interministerial Commission to study the possibility to modify the boundaries of the protected areas to authorize extractive activities is very worrying. Given that a new Government is not yet in place, the mandate of this Commission remains unclear. For all these reasons, it is also recommended that the Committee reiterate its position according to which petroleum exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status.

It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to prepare biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) as the main results of the wildlife inventories are available, and to submit them as soon as possible to the World Heritage Centre.

It is also recommended to the Committee to maintain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism.   

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7A.11

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7A.51, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Addresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed in the line of duty and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Commends the management efforts of the ICCN to strengthen surveillance and ecological monitoring, in particular through the increase in the number of guards, the improvement in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) that has resulted in the control of Mont Tshiabirimu and an increase of nearly 50% in the areas covered by surveillance in comparison to 2017;
  5. Expresses its keen concern as regards continuing insecurity and notably the presence of 3,000 armed elements that operate in the property, rendering management operations very difficult and leading to incessant illegal activities (poaching, illegal fishing and production of charcoal) while endangering the life of the surveillance staff of the Park;
  6. Again expresses its concern in the face of serious threats that weigh on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in particular the encroachment of illegal plantations in nearly 20% of the Park, illegal fishing, the exploitation of wood and poaching;
  7. Requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the corrective measures updated by the 2018 reactive monitoring mission and encourages it to continue the implementation of the sustainable development activities established in the framework of the Alliance Virunga;
  8. Notes that a clear political will at the local, national and regional levels is necessary to resolve the encroachment issues of the property and urges the State Party to develop, in consultation with all the stakeholders, a strategy to halt encroachment and take measures to recover the invaded areas;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit the results of the inventories of the flagship species to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN and to define the biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  10. Expresses its deepest concern regarding the establishment of an Interministerial Commission to study a possible modification of the boundaries of the protected areas with a view to authorizing extractive activities, and recalls again its position according to which all mining, petroleum and gas exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, a policy supported by the commitments undertaken by the leaders of the industry, such as Shell and Total, not to engage in such activities in World Heritage properties;
  11. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, 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 44th session in 2020;
  12. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism;
  13. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 43 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/19/43.COM/7A, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.3 and WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.3.Corr),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: