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Virunga National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Civil unrest
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Oil and gas
  • War
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Armed conflict, lack of security and political instability
  • Attribution of a petroleum exploration permit inside the property
  • Poaching by the army (issue resolved) and armed groups
  • Encroachment
  • Extension of illegal fishing areas
  • Deforestation, charcoal production and cattle grazing
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Increased poaching of wildlife
  • Incapability of staff to patrol the 650 km long boundary of the Park
  • Massive influx of 1 million refugees occupying adjacent parts of the Park
  • Widespread depletion of forests in the lowlands
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger
Corrective Measures for the property
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

In progress

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021

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), USD 40,000 from the Rapid Response Facility (RRF)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 10 (from 1980-2005)
Total amount approved : 253,560 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 26 March 2020, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation and a further report on 1 April 2021, both of which are available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents, containing the following information:

  • The property reopened to tourism in February 2019 after an eight-month closure;
  • Cooperation between the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), and local and provincial authorities continues;
  • Guard numbers remain constant (748). Anti-poaching patrols increased by over 30% from 2018, covering 42% of the property and 87% for air patrols. 550 security operations allowed the park to regain control over several areas of the property in the northern sector. The number of militia operating in the property declined from 2,500 to 1,000-1,200;
  • The Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation (GVTC) transboundary cooperation with Uganda and Rwanda allowed five joint patrols and the implementation of a joint wildlife census of large mammals in 2018 (excluding gorillas/chimpanzees) with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Reduced elephant poaching is reported (three carcases in 2019; six in 2018); the hippopotamus population remains low but has remained stable over the last decade (1,496 individuals; 1,542 in 2018);
  • No gorillas have been poached since 2016. Despite poaching and threats to the habitat, flagship species (gorillas, elephants, hippopotamus, buffaloes) continue to increase gradually or remain stable. A new count of large mammals is planned for June 2020 using camera traps;
  • A fishing brigade created on Lake Edward allowed the increased seizure of illegal catch and fishing gear by eco-guards. Fish catch is reported as stable, which the State Party concludes means illegal fishing is relatively controlled. No catch data are provided;
  • Illegal encroachment for agriculture and charcoal covers 18.5% of the property (19.4% in 2018); 912 bags of charcoal were seized and 254 kilns destroyed. Boundary demarcation (16km) through electric fence construction to secure the Ishasha ecological corridor continues;
  • No further decision has been taken to re-start oil exploration activities since the installations of the oil company SOCO were abandoned;
  • The Virunga Alliance continues development programmes, including the supply of power to the city of Goma. A third hydroelectric power station was constructed as an alternative to charcoal use;
  • The biological indicators of the desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) requested by the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission are being harmonized with the 2020-25 Development and Management Plan (PAG) for the property, currently being finalized. The DSOCR and PAG will be transmitted to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN once validated;

Since submission of the report, the security situation in the region has again degraded with several attacks in the property and its vicinity. On 24 April 2020, 17 people (13 rangers/staff and four civilians) were killed in a militia attack (https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2108). On 24 June 2020, five guards were injured in another attack (http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2128). On 28 July 2020, seven soldiers were killed (https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2138/). On 10 January 2021, six guards were killed and one seriously injured in the line of duty (http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2235). UNESCO has officially condemned all these deadly attacks (https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2235/). In response to this new security crisis, emergency funding was provided through the Rapid Response Facility. Furthermore, gorilla tourism was suspended following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

It is encouraging that it has been possible to re-establish control over certain areas and achieve a further decrease in the number of militia operating in the property. The continued efforts to increase patrols and aerial surveillance and to strengthen the capacity of anti-poaching units are welcomed.

However, ongoing security issues continue to present challenges for the management of the property and the conservation of its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), with a continued presence of more than 1,000 armed elements operating in the property and several attacks on guards. It is recommended that the Committee addresses its sincere condolences to the families of the guards and requests the State Party to continue its efforts to ensure full security in the property.

The transboundary cooperation and conservation efforts with Uganda and Rwanda through the GVTC are positive. It is encouraging that no gorilla poaching has occurred since 2016 and that the mountain gorilla population continues to grow in the property and the overall Virunga transboundary landscape. While the reported stabilization of flagship species and the apparent gradual decline in elephant poaching are noted, poaching remains a serious challenge and it will take time for populations to recover. Hippopotamus numbers remain low compared to 1970s levels (approximatively 30,000) and the elephant population remains at a critical level. In spite of the significant increase in gorillas, the endangered species remains fragile and extremely vulnerable to new threats, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. The State Party should be commended for its continued conservation efforts in spite of the challenging security situation, urged to continue strengthening measures to ensure the full recovery of all flagship species, and requested to transmit the results of new inventories, the DSOCR and PAG to the World Heritage Centre.

Apart from poaching, issues of encroachment and deforestation for charcoal production continue to severely impact the integrity of the property, in spite of the efforts to address these threats. While some progress has been made to regain control of encroached areas, it is concerning that 18,5% of the property remains impacted by encroachment. It is clear that this problem cannot be solved through law enforcement alone and decisive actions are needed from the local, provincial and national political authorities to effectively address this issue.

Sustainable development efforts under the Virunga Alliance programme, specifically regarding tourism, hydropower, entrepreneurship and power delivery to local communities, are welcomed. Noting the construction of a third small scale hydroelectric power plant in 2019, it is recommended that the State Party provide an overview of all hydropower projects relating to the property, to ensure that the potential cumulative impacts of developments on the OUV of the property are fully considered, and to inform the World Heritage Centre of any new proposals prior to activities being undertaken.

Recalling previous deep concerns over potential petroleum exploitation and exploration threats to the property, it is encouraging that so far, no oil exploration activities have been undertaken since the removal of SOCO's facilities from the property more than four years ago. However, it is important to note that oil activities remain a potential threat to the property as long as the current licences have not been revoked, and the Committee should reiterate its request to cancel the petroleum concessions granted inside the property.

While efforts to implement the corrective measures are encouraging, the OUV of the property clearly remains under severe threat and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue implementing these with support from its partners.

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



46. General decision on the World Heritage properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Current conservation issues

On 26 March 2020, the State Party submitted a report on the implementation of Decision 42 COM 7A.52, available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents and providing the following information:

  • Progress accomplished in the implementation of the 2011 Kinshasa Declaration and the corrective measures for each of the five properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is described (see Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A);
  • A special army Corps responsible for security of the National Parks and relevant protected areas (CorPPN), which was created in June 2015, is now operational: a command structure was established in 2018, and in 2019 anti-poaching units were dispatched to six priority sites in the DRC, including all five World Heritage properties. Senior officers, logistics and operations rooms were put in place in the different sites;
  • With regard to oil exploitation in Salonga and Virunga National Parks, the report states that oil exploitation, at this stage, does not threaten the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the two properties, as no exploration or exploitation activities are on-going. The report further states that “la volonté traduite à son temps par le gouvernement n’est plus à l’ordre du jour” (sic) (“the will expressed by the government at that time is no longer on the agenda”);
  • A list of funding mobilised for the five properties for the period 2016 to 2023, totalling more than 100 million Euros, is provided. Key donors include the European Commission and the Government of Germany through the German Development Bank (KfW). No further information is provided on the status of the Trust Fund “Okapi Fund for Conservation – FOCON” for sustainable funding of the protected areas in the DRC;

The World Heritage Centre also received several letters on alleged human rights abuses by eco-guards in two properties (Salonga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks). These were forwarded to the protected area authority, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN). An Independent Review was initiated by WWF, and in Salonga National Park, a code of conduct for the eco-guards and a complaint mechanism were established, while guards have received training on human rights issues.


Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies

The operationalization of the CorPPN at the level of each of the World Heritage properties, together with the creation of operational rooms and capacity building of the eco-guards, are important steps to further professionalize law enforcement in the properties and address the continuing threats of poaching, including by professional poaching groups. The reported alleged human rights abuses towards  indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are highly concerning, and it is crucial that the State Party urgently implement strong measures to ensure that the rights of IPLCs are fully respected in all management decisions. Measures should include the establishment of a code of conduct and provision of training on human rights issues for all patrol units that includes appropriate law enforcement techniques with regard to the use of force and forearms, to ensure law enforcement operations are conducted in a way that fully respects the rights of IPLCs, and avoids excessive use of force and loss of human lives, in full respect  of relevant international norms. Furthermore, management processes should follow a rights-based approach and ensure full involvement of all rightsholders and stakeholders, in particular IPLCs, in line with the Policy on World Heritage and Sustainable Development. It is encouraging that the protected area authority and its partners have already taken measures to address these issues and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to further strengthen these efforts including by establishing and implementing a national code of conduct for eco-guards and a grievance mechanism for human rights abuses, and by training all law enforcement staff on human rights issues as part of regular training. It is also recommended that the outcomes of the Independent Review are taken into consideration.

It is noted that the security situation is reported to have improved in most of the properties. It is important that the State Party takes advantage of this situation to address the drivers of fundamental threats impacting the different properties linked to insecurity and lawlessness. These include the closure of illegal mining operations and reclaiming parts of the properties occupied by armed forces since the start of the conflict. Encouraging achievements so far are the evacuation of illegal occupants in the corridor between the highland and lowland sectors in Kahuzi-Biega National Park and the closure of artisanal gold mines in the hunting areas surrounding Garamba National Park. It is crucial that the protected area authority receives the full support of all appropriate ministries and agencies, as well as traditional and political authorities to achieve this, in line with the 2011 Kinshasa Declaration.

It is concerning however, that issues of insecurity persist, noting particularly in Virunga National Park and Okapi Wildlife Reserve, where, since the previous session of the Committee, a further 25 park staff were killed in armed attacks. It is recommended that the Committee again strongly condemn this violence, address its condolences to the families of the victims and ICCN staff, and express its utmost concern regarding the continuing insecurity in and around Virunga National Park.

The confirmation by the State Party that there is currently no oil exploration or exploitation on-going in Virunga and Salonga National Parks and that the government is currently no longer pursuing oil development projects inside the two properties, is noted. However, as long as the concessions that have been attributed by Presidential Decree to companies for oil blocks overlapping with these properties are not revoked, the potential for oil projects to legally proceed in future remains, thereby continuing to impose a potential threat to the OUV of the properties, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. This potential for extractive activities to occur has been demonstrated again by the legal action taken by certain companies against the State Party, asserting their legal rights to activate concessions. It is therefore recommended that the Committee express its regret that the State Party has neither cancelled these concessions nor provided the Committee with an unequivocal commitment not to authorize any new oil exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of the DRC properties. The Committee should also reiterate its clear position concerning the incompatibility of oil exploration and exploitation with World Heritage status and urge once again the State Party to cancel all concessions for oil blocks that overlap with World Heritage properties. 

The important efforts to mobilize funding for the management of the properties of the DRC and the implementation of corrective measures, as well as the firm commitment of the various donors to provide substantial financial and technical support, are welcomed. However, it is noted that the funding situation remains precarious, in particular for Salonga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks and Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The importance of a sustainable financing mechanism also needs to be stressed, as all properties currently fully depend on outside project funding supported by international donors, which can be unpredictable and is not sustainable in the long term. In this respect, it is regrettable that no further information was provided on the status and capitalisation of the FOCON Trust Fund.

 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7A.45
Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 63)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7A.11, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Deplores the further loss of life of protected area staff killed in the line of duty and local communities, and addresses its most sincere condolences to their families and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Expresses its deep concern regarding ongoing insecurity due to the continued presence of more than 1,000 armed elements operating in the property, rendering management operations extremely hazardous and leading to the persistence of illegal activities while endangering the life of the surveillance staff of the Park and local communities, but commends the protected area authority for its continued conservation efforts in spite of the challenging security situation;
  5. Welcomes the transboundary conservation efforts with Uganda and Rwanda through the Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation (GVTC) and conservation efforts resulting in a significant increase in the population of mountain gorilla population in the property and the Greater Virunga Landscape;
  6. Notes with concern that flagship species remain threatened and poaching continues, and requests the State Party to continue its effort to curb poaching and to submit the results of flagship species inventories, as well as the biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) to be finalized in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  7. Again expresses its utmost concern about the extent of encroachment on the property which, combined with the continued illegal exploitation of its natural resources, severely affects the integrity of the property, and urges the State Party to ensure that local, provincial and national authorities cooperate with the Park management to halt encroachment and take measures to recover the invaded areas;
  8. While noting that currently no oil exploration activities are on-going in the property, regretsthat the State Party has not confirmed its commitment not to authorize new petroleum exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of the property, as was established at the time of inscription on the World Heritage List in 1979, and reiterates its request to the State Party to cancel the petroleum concessions granted inside the property;
  9. Recalls again its positionaccording 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 not to engage in such activities in World Heritage properties;
  10. Also requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement all corrective measures as updated by the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission and to continue the implementation of the sustainable development activities established in the framework of the Virunga Alliance;
  11. Further requests the State Party to provide an overview of all existing and planned hydropower projects around the property, to ensure that potential impacts of developments including cumulative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are fully considered, and to inform the World Heritage Centre of any new developments in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, prior to any activities being undertaken;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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 45th session;
  13. Decides to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  14. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
44 COM 7A.46
General decision on the World Heritage properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7A.52, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Appreciates the continued efforts of the State Party to implement the Kinshasa Declaration adopted in 2011, in particular the progress made with the operationalization of Corps responsible for the security of the National Parks and relevant protected areas (CorPPN) at the level of each of the five World Heritage properties in order to face the continuing threats of poaching, including by professional poaching groups;
  4. Notes with significant concern the reports on alleged human rights abuses towards indigenous peoples and local communities during law enforcement operations and requests the State Party to take urgent measures to further strengthen its efforts to address this issue, including by establishing and implementing a national code of conduct for eco-guards and a grievance mechanism for human rights abuses, and by training all protected area staff on human rights issues as part of regular law enforcement training, as well as ensuring that management processes follow a rights-based approach and ensure full involvement of all stakeholders, in particular local and indigenous communities, in line with relevant international norms, the Policy on World Heritage and Sustainable Development, and taking into consideration the outcomes of the Independent Review;
  5. Welcomes the improvement in the security situation in most properties, and urges the State Party to take advantage of this improved security situation to address the fundamental threats to the different properties, including by closing all remaining illegal mining operations and reclaiming parts of the properties occupied by armed forces since the start of the conflict, ensuring the support of all appropriate ministries and agencies as well as traditional and political authorities to achieve this, in line with the 2011 Kinshasa Declaration;
  6. Expresses its utmost concern regarding the continued insecurity in Virunga National Park and Okapi Wildlife Reserve which resulted in further park staff being killed in the line of duty, strongly condemns this violence once again and addresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and all ICCN staff;
  7. While noting the statement by the State Party that the government is currently no longer pursuing oil exploration or exploitation activities within Virunga and Salonga National Parks, strongly regrets that the State Party has not cancelled the oil concessions it has attributed which overlap with these properties, and that it has not yet provided the Committee with a firm commitment not to authorize any oil exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) World Heritage properties, as requested in previous decisions;
  8. Reiterates its position according to which oil and gas exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status and also urges once again the State Party to cancel these concessions and to undertake a commitment not to authorize any new oil exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of any World Heritage property;
  9. Commends the efforts of the State Party to make operational the “Okapi Fund for Conservation – FOCON” as the Trust Fund for protected areas in the DRC, and also requests the State Party, and the donor community, to provide it with adequate funding to effectively respond to the management needs of the DRC World Heritage properties;
  10. Also appreciates the important efforts to mobilize funding for the management of the DRC properties and the implementation of the corrective measures, as well as the firm commitment of the various donors to provide substantial financial and technical support, but notes that the funding situation remains precarious, in particular for Salonga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks and Okapi Wildlife Reserve, and stresses the importance of ensuring a sustainable financing mechanism, while regretting that no further information was provided on the status and capitalisation of the FOCON Trust Fund, and further requests the State Party to report on progress in this regard;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, a detailed report on the implementation of the Kinshasa Declaration, the security situation in the properties, and the status of the oil exploration and exploitation concessions that encroach on World Heritage properties, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session.
44 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (Retained Properties)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/21/44.COM/7A, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 44 COM 7A.28)
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 44 COM 7A.29)
  • Austria, Historic Centre of Vienna (Decision 44 COM 7A.32)
  • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosí (Decision 44 COM 7A.35)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.39)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.40)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.41)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.42)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.43)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.45)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 44 COM 7A.5)
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.55)
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 44 COM 7A.52)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 44 COM 7A.6)
  • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 44 COM 7A.7)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 44 COM 7A.8)
  • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 44 COM 7A.10)
  • Kenya, Lake Turkana National Parks (Decision 44 COM 7A.47)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Decision 44 COM 7A.11)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Decision 44 COM 7A.12)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Decision 44 COM 7A.13)
  • Libya, Old Town of Ghadamès (Decision 44 COM 7A.14)
  • Libya, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Decision 44 COM 7A.15)
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 44 COM 7A.48)
  • Mali, Old Towns of Djenné (Decision 44 COM 7A.1)
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 44 COM 7A.2)
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 44 COM 7A.3)
  • Mexico, Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Decision 44 COM 7B.56)
  • Micronesia (Federated States of), Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Decision 44 COM 7A.30)
  • Niger, Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 44 COM 7A.49)
  • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 44 COM 7A.17)
  • Palestine, Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Decision 44 COM 7A.16)
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 44 COM 7A.36)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 44 COM 7A.37)
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.50)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 44 COM 7A.33)
  • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 44 COM 7A.53)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 44 COM 7A.18)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 44 COM 7A.19)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 44 COM 7A.20)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 44 COM 7A.21)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 44 COM 7A.22)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 44 COM 7A.23)
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 44 COM 7A.4)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 44 COM 7A.51)
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 44 COM 7A.54)
  • Uzbekistan, Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Decision 44 COM 7A.31)
  • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Coro and its Port (Decision 44 COM 7A.38)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 44 COM 7A.25)
  • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 44 COM 7A.26)
  • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 44 COM 7A.27).
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7A.45

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7A.11, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Deplores the further loss of life of protected area staff killed in the line of duty and local communities, and addresses its most sincere condolences to their families and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Expresses its deep concern regarding ongoing insecurity due to the continued presence of more than 1,000 armed elements operating in the property, rendering management operations extremely hazardous and leading to the persistence of illegal activities while endangering the life of the surveillance staff of the Park and local communities, but commends the protected area authority for its continued conservation efforts in spite of the challenging security situation;
  5. Welcomes the transboundary conservation efforts with Uganda and Rwanda through the Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation (GVTC) and conservation efforts resulting in a significant increase in the population of mountain gorilla population in the property and the Greater Virunga Landscape;
  6. Notes with concern that flagship species remain threatened and poaching continues, and requests the State Party to continue its effort to curb poaching and to submit the results of flagship species inventories, as well as the biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) to be finalized in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  7. Again expresses its utmost concern about the extent of encroachment on the property which, combined with the continued illegal exploitation of its natural resources, severely affects the integrity of the property, and urges the State Party to ensure that local, provincial and national authorities cooperate with the Park management to halt encroachment and take measures to recover the invaded areas;
  8. While noting that currently no oil exploration activities are on-going in the property, regretsthat the State Party has not confirmed its commitment not to authorize new petroleum exploration and exploitation within the boundaries of the property, as was established at the time of inscription on the World Heritage List in 1979, and reiterates its request to the State Party to cancel the petroleum concessions granted inside the property;
  9. Recalls again its positionaccording 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 not to engage in such activities in World Heritage properties;
  10. Also requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement all corrective measures as updated by the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission and to continue the implementation of the sustainable development activities established in the framework of the Virunga Alliance;
  11. Further requests the State Party to provide an overview of all existing and planned hydropower projects around the property, to ensure that potential impacts of developments including cumulative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are fully considered, and to inform the World Heritage Centre of any new developments in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, prior to any activities being undertaken;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, 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 45th session in 2022;
  13. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism;
  14. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2021
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(x)
Danger List (dates): 1994-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2020) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2020
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
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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