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 was developed during the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/documents), but the biological indicators still need to be quantified based on the results of a census of large mammals available at late 2018.

Corrective measures identified

Adopted in 2017, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6954

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted in 2017, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6954

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

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

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-2021)
Total amount approved: USD 170,025
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,003,900 from the United Nations Foundation (UNF), and the Governments of Italy and Belgium, and by the Rapid Response Facility (RRF), USD 300,000 from the Government of Norway (2021-2022)

Previous monitoring missions

1996-2006: several World Heritage Centre missions in the framework of the DRC Programme; December 2009 and April/May 2017: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions

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 2023

On 8 April 2022, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/137/documents/ and reporting the following:

In April 2022, the World Heritage Centre received two third-party reports by NGO Minority Rights Group (MRG) regarding alleged human rights abuses towards the Batwa community including by ICCN and FARDC staff. On 22 April 2022, the World Heritage Centre transmitted the information to the State Party. On 1 June 2022, the State Party transmitted a summary report of findings and recommendations of a “Commission of Inquiry into alleged violations by ICCN staff at Kahuzi-Biega National Park” established by the ICCN Director General in response to the allegations and composed of technical ICCN staff, coordinated by the Director in charge of human rights, key conservation partners in South Kivu, the principal author of the MRG report, and an independent human rights expert responsible for ensuring that the Commission's work complied with human rights standards. The report conclusions document a number of incidents but does not confirm the alleged systematic use of violence towards the indigenous Batwa.

In May 2023, the World Heritage Centre received an information regarding the death of an ecoguard in an armed confrontation in the property.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

It is encouraging that the on-going collaboration between ICCN, FARDC and local population and authorities is reported to have maintained the lull in the security situation, that the majority of armed groups operating in or around the property have been removed and that surveillance coverage has again met the 60% area threshold of the corrective measures. The on-going patrol coverage and closure of remaining active artisanal mining sites constitutes a positive step towards effectively managing the mining threat in the property in the longer term. The delineation of the property boundaries has continued, although no detailed information is provided to evaluate to what extent this corrective measure has been completed.

Regarding efforts to address encroachment, the development of a rehabilitation plan for the ecological corridor following its evacuation in recent years is positive. Whilst no information regarding the impacts of encroachment on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property was provided, it is recommended that the rehabilitation plan be finalised and implemented as soon as possible in full consultation with relevant stakeholders. The reported workshops, capacity building and regular involvement of all relevant stakeholders in government processes are also noted. Positive progress continues and all efforts should be continued to complete the corrective measures.. Whilst noting the brief update of wildlife data, it is recalled that the wildlife inventory data completed in 2018 is crucial for the evaluation of the OUV of the property and to finalize the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). Therefore, recalling Decisions 42 COM 7A.48, 43 COM 7A.8 and 44 COM 7A.43, the Committee should request the State Party to prepare DSOCR indicators based on this information, in order to finalize the DSOCR based on the draft proposed by the 2017 mission as soon as possible, and set out the actions needed to achieve the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. It is important to make clear that the quoted population number for Grauer’s gorilla remains extremely low, as the population was estimated to be close to 10,000 individuals before the inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The allegations of human rights abuses by ICCN staff and FARDC soldiers towards indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC) during law enforcement operations are of utmost concern despite the reported training of rangers on human rights.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note the recommendations of the “Commission of Inquiry into alleged violations by ICCN staff at Kahuzi-Biega National Park”, including recommendation at site level, the need to identify and sanction the perpetrators of the confirmed violent incidents, to establish a joint and independent human rights monitoring and protection unit in the property, to ensure a full application of human rights and strengthen the cooperation with civil society organisations working on human rights, the organizations of indigenous communities as well as local authorities, and at the level of ICCN to develop clearer rules of engagement for surveillance operations and guidance on the application and enforcement of human rights. In this regard, Decision 44 COM 7A.46 is also recalled, and it is recommended the State Party, together with its donors and implementation partners, be requested to urgently implement strong and effective measures to ensure that the rights of IPLCs are fully respected in all management decisions. This includes the establishment and implementation of a code of conduct, provision of training on human rights issues for all patrol units including appropriate law enforcement techniques regarding the use of force and firearms, and to ensure law enforcement operations are conducted in a way that fully respects the rights of IPLCs in line with relevant international norms and supported by fully transparent governance and effective procedures to ensure implementation and accountability. See also the DRC General Decision under Item 7A.9.

The reported progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2019 Bukavu Dialogue to address relations with the Batwa indigenous communities is encouraging. However, it is noted that serious concerns continue to be raised by IPLCs, including by the Batwa regarding a lack of consultation on the aforementioned Commission and requesting the urgent establishment of a joint commission to address land allocation. The implementation should therefore remain a matter of priority.

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

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7A.6

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 42 COM 7A.48, 43 COM 7A.8, 44 COM 7A.43 and 44 COM 7A.46 adopted at its 42nd (Bahrain, 2018), 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Deplores the continued violence and further loss of life of protected area staff killed in the line of duty, and offers its most sincere condolences to their families and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Welcomes the continued improvement in the security situation and that the ongoing collaboration between the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and local population and authorities has resulted in the removal of the majority of armed groups operating within and in the vicinity of the property;
  5. Notes with significant concern the new and continuing allegations of serious human rights violations towards indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) linked to law enforcement operations and also takes note of the findings of the “Commission of Inquiry into alleged violations by ICCN staff at Kahuzi-Biega National Park” set up by the State Party to investigate the raised issues;
  6. Requests the State Party to implement all the recommendations of the report of the Commission of Inquiry, as well as any additional measures necessary to further ensure all conservation activities fully respect human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including by, but not limited to, establishing a national code of conduct for eco-guards and an effective and transparent grievance mechanism for human rights abuses, and by training all law enforcement staff on human rights issues, as well as ensuring an equitably governed consultative process with participation and decision making of all rightsholders and stakeholders, consistent with relevant international norms and the Policy on the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into World Heritage Processes(2015);
  7. Welcomes the reported progress on the implementation of the 2019 Bukavu Dialogue recommendations, and urges the State Party to accelerate the continued implementation of the Dialogue recommendations in full consultation with all relevant stakeholders;
  8. Notes with appreciation the continued progress towards achieving the corrective measures for the property including maintaining patrol coverage of the property and addressing artisanal mining and poaching, and requests the State Party to expeditiously implement all corrective measures as updated by the 2017 mission;
  9. Recalling its concern regarding the increased pressure of encroachment on the property, notes with appreciation that a rehabilitation plan for the ecological corridor has been developed and requests the State Party to submit further details of the plan, and to ensure its implementation takes into consideration any impacts of encroachment on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and actions required to ensure the recovery and regeneration of natural vegetation, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders;
  10. Recalling the importance of wildlife to the OUV of the property, remains concerned about the low populations of key wildlife species, in particular the population of Grauer’s gorilla, compared to the time of inscription and reiterates its requests to the State Party to submit the results of the 2018 or more recent wildlife inventory to the World Heritage Centre, and to finalize, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) based on the draft proposed by the 2017 mission and on the wildlife data;
  11. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2024, 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 46th session;
  12. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  13. Also decides to retain Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 45 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/23/45.COM/7A, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.3, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.4),
  2. Having examined the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies, decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
3.    Recalls that the following properties were inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 18th extraordinary session (UNESCO, 2023):