1.         W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Benin,Burkina Faso,Niger) (N 749bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1996

Criteria  (ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/749/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1997-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 135,440
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/749/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted:  USD 40,000 from the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) in 2022;

USD 247,870 from the Government of Norway in 2020-2023

Previous monitoring missions

UNESCO/RAMSAR mission, 8-22 May 2004; World Heritage Centre reactive monitoring mission, 17-22 January 2022.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/749/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 28 January 2022, the States Parties of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger submitted a joint report on the state of conservation of the property, and on 30 March 2023, they provided additional information available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/749/documents, which provides the following information:

A World Heritage Centre reactive monitoring mission was despatched to the property from 17 to 22 January 2022. The report of this mission is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/749/documents. It should be noted that, while the reactive monitoring mission had been planned as a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission in accordance with World Heritage Committee Decision 44 COM 7B.79, the IUCN expert was unable to physically participate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the mission was unable to visit the components of the property located in Burkina Faso and Niger for security reasons.

In February 2022, two deadly explosive device attacks were carried out against teams of rangers on patrol in the W National Park in Benin, resulting in the deaths of four rangers, two drivers, an instructor and a soldier, as well as 12 other people hospitalised with serious injuries. More information on these attacks is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2404/ and https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2420/

On 23 June 2023, the second Council of Ministers of the three countries was held in Benin at the WASF headquarters.

Analysis and conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The main conservation challenge remains the presence of armed groups in the area of the property, a consequence of the dramatic deterioration of the security situation in the Sahel region. The World Heritage Centre's reactive monitoring mission carried out in 2022 notes that the number of violent acts committed by armed groups has increased considerably since 2017. The presence of these armed groups, and the threat it represents, has forced management staff in Burkina Faso and Niger to abandon their positions in the property and retreat to localities and bases outside the property. The result is a lack of management on the ground in these areas of the property. The mission thus concluded that the property is facing serious threats which could have harmful effects on its essential characteristics and that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property is subject to potential danger in accordance with paragraphs 180b) iii) and 180b)iv) of the Operational Guidelines.

However, the Benin component of the property is still actively managed, but staff are under constant threat and there is a clear risk that insecurity will spread and affect management in this component as well, as illustrated by the two fatal attacks in the W National Park in Benin in February 2022. Similarly, other significant threats were noted by the mission, namely the expansion of the agricultural front, transhumance and the impact of climate change. However, while the presence of armed groups presents a considerable risk for the intensification of illegal activities such as poaching and gold panning, the extent of the negative impact of these activities on the OUV of the property and wildlife populations remains unclear. The findings of aerial censuses carried out in 2019 and 2021 show that wildlife populations remain ecologically viable, but the available data does not allow conclusions on trends to be drawn with certainty. It is recommended that the Committee requests the States Parties to carry out aerial censuses on a regular basis using the same methodology allowing comparison of results and consequently identification of trends.

In response to the security situation, the States Parties have deployed considerable resources at political, technical and field levels in an attempt to dislodge armed groups and restore order and security to the property and its area of influence. The various actions undertaken include strengthening the operational capacity of personnel, acquiring equipment, collecting and analyzing security information, stepping up surveillance patrols and joint operations with defense and security forces, supporting local communities and drawing up strategic framework and operational planning documents such as Priority Intervention Plans (PIP).

In addition, since the 2022 mission, the States Parties have announced additional efforts aimed at restoring security to the property and resuming management activities, including anti-poaching. It remains to be seen whether these measures will be effective in the short term. At the same time, the holding of the second Council of Ministers of the three countries on 23 June 2023 in Benin in support of joint efforts to secure and preserve the Transboundary Complex is noted, and it is recommended that the Committee encourage the States Parties to pursue their efforts with technical and financial partners involved with the property and appeal to the international community to support these efforts in order to ensure sustainable financing of the property, notably through the consolidation of the West African Savannah Foundation (WASF).

It should be noted that the mission faced a number of constraints, including the fact that IUCN was unable to participate physically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it was not possible to visit the Burkinabe and Niger components of the property due to the security situation on the ground. Although the mission confirms that the elements justifying the OUV remain present in the Benin component, the information and documentation available in the Burkina Faso and Niger components do not allow us to assess at this stage the extent of the impact of the presence of armed groups and illegal activities on the elements justifying the OUV in these components, including on the wildlife populations. In this regard, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the States Parties to invite a new joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to address the gaps identified by the January 2022 mission, to assess the measures undertaken by the States Parties to restore security in the property and resume their management, and to determine whether the OUV is still subject to potential danger.

In addition, it is recommended that the Committee urge the States Parties to strengthen dialogue and communication with all stakeholders and to implement the recommendations of the 2022 reactive monitoring mission. These actions could be supported through an Emergency International Assistance request to the World Heritage Fund and the “Initiative to Support the Sustainable Management of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex” financed by the Government of Norway, the first national technical consultation of which was held in Niger from 30 May to 1 June 2023 in preparation for the national technical consultations in Burkino-Faso and Benin, as well as the round table of financial and technical partners of the property.

The progress made in implementing the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement signed in 2019 for the harmonized management of the protected areas comprising the property illustrates a strengthening of transboundary cooperation for its effective management. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the three States Parties to continue their efforts to implement the provisions of the Agreement, in particular the provision of sufficient technical and financial resources for the proper functioning of the Executive Secretariat and the other governance bodies provided for therein.

The adoption of the CCAP for the property is a remarkable step forward. It is recommended that the Committee congratulate the States Parties on this major decision and encourage them to integrate the adaptation measures provided for therein into the various strategic framework and operational planning documents for the property's protected areas. Various infrastructure projects are underway or planned in the Benin component of the property. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) have been carried out or are underway for these projects, but the vast majority have not addressed potential negative impacts on the property's OUV. It is therefore recommended that the Committee reiterate that all new projects should be subject to an ESIA, including a specific assessment of the potential negative impacts on the OUV of the property in accordance with the new "Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context”, before approval. In addition, the project to translocate species in the Pendjari National Park continued despite the reservations of the IUCN. It is important that future translocations strictly adhere to international standards, in line with the IUCN 2013 Guidelines on Conservation Translocations, to ensure their success.

Significant efforts have been made to finalize and submit the 1/50,000 buffer zone boundary map of the property, in response to Decisions 41 COM 8B.3 and 44 COM 7B.79, and initiatives are underway to modify the boundaries of the property to strengthen its protection.

In view of these conclusions, it is recommended that the Committee request the States Parties to submit an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations and other points, for examination by the Committee at its 46th session, in order to consider, in the absence of significant progress in meeting the above-mentioned conditions, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. To support the efforts of the three States Parties, their engagement in a dialogue with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN on the state of the property, developments in the security situation and the international support needed to resolve the significant challenges facing the protection of the OUV of the property will be essential.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The main conservation challenge remains the presence of armed groups in the area of the property, a consequence of the dramatic deterioration of the security situation in the Sahel region. The World Heritage Centre's reactive monitoring mission carried out in 2022 notes that the number of violent acts committed by armed groups has increased considerably since 2017. The presence of these armed groups, and the threat it represents, has forced management staff in Burkina Faso and Niger to abandon their positions in the property and retreat to localities and bases outside the property. The result is a lack of management on the ground in these areas of the property. The mission thus concluded that the property is facing serious threats which could have harmful effects on its essential characteristics and that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property is subject to potential danger in accordance with paragraphs 180b) iii) and 180b)iv) of the Operational Guidelines.

However, the Benin component of the property is still actively managed, but staff are under constant threat and there is a clear risk that insecurity will spread and affect management in this component as well, as illustrated by the two fatal attacks in the W National Park in Benin in February 2022. Similarly, other significant threats were noted by the mission, namely the expansion of the agricultural front, transhumance and the impact of climate change. However, while the presence of armed groups presents a considerable risk for the intensification of illegal activities such as poaching and gold panning, the extent of the negative impact of these activities on the OUV of the property and wildlife populations remains unclear. The findings of aerial censuses carried out in 2019 and 2021 show that wildlife populations remain ecologically viable, but the available data does not allow conclusions on trends to be drawn with certainty. It is recommended that the Committee requests the States Parties to carry out aerial censuses on a regular basis using the same methodology allowing comparison of results and consequently identification of trends.

In response to the security situation, the States Parties have deployed considerable resources at political, technical and field levels in an attempt to dislodge armed groups and restore order and security to the property and its area of influence. The various actions undertaken include strengthening the operational capacity of personnel, acquiring equipment, collecting and analyzing security information, stepping up surveillance patrols and joint operations with defense and security forces, supporting local communities and drawing up strategic framework and operational planning documents such as Priority Intervention Plans (PIP).

In addition, since the 2022 mission, the States Parties have announced additional efforts aimed at restoring security to the property and resuming management activities, including anti-poaching. It remains to be seen whether these measures will be effective in the short term. At the same time, the holding of the second Council of Ministers of the three countries on 23 June 2023 in Benin in support of joint efforts to secure and preserve the Transboundary Complex is noted, and it is recommended that the Committee encourage the States Parties to pursue their efforts with technical and financial partners involved with the property and appeal to the international community to support these efforts in order to ensure sustainable financing of the property, notably through the consolidation of the West African Savannah Foundation (WASF).

It should be noted that the mission faced a number of constraints, including the fact that IUCN was unable to participate physically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it was not possible to visit the Burkinabe and Niger components of the property due to the security situation on the ground. Although the mission confirms that the elements justifying the OUV remain present in the Benin component, the information and documentation available in the Burkina Faso and Niger components do not allow us to assess at this stage the extent of the impact of the presence of armed groups and illegal activities on the elements justifying the OUV in these components, including on the wildlife populations. In this regard, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee request the States Parties to invite a new joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to address the gaps identified by the January 2022 mission, to assess the measures undertaken by the States Parties to restore security in the property and resume their management, and to determine whether the OUV is still subject to potential danger.

In addition, it is recommended that the Committee urge the States Parties to strengthen dialogue and communication with all stakeholders and to implement the recommendations of the 2022 reactive monitoring mission. These actions could be supported through an Emergency International Assistance request to the World Heritage Fund and the “Initiative to Support the Sustainable Management of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex” financed by the Government of Norway, the first national technical consultation of which was held in Niger from 30 May to 1 June 2023 in preparation for the national technical consultations in Burkino-Faso and Benin, as well as the round table of financial and technical partners of the property.

The progress made in implementing the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement signed in 2019 for the harmonized management of the protected areas comprising the property illustrates a strengthening of transboundary cooperation for its effective management. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the three States Parties to continue their efforts to implement the provisions of the Agreement, in particular the provision of sufficient technical and financial resources for the proper functioning of the Executive Secretariat and the other governance bodies provided for therein. 

The adoption of the CCAP for the property is a remarkable step forward. It is recommended that the Committee congratulate the States Parties on this major decision and encourage them to integrate the adaptation measures provided for therein into the various strategic framework and operational planning documents for the property's protected areas. Various infrastructure projects are underway or planned in the Benin component of the property. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) have been carried out or are underway for these projects, but the vast majority have not addressed potential negative impacts on the property's OUV. It is therefore recommended that the Committee reiterate that all new projects should be subject to an ESIA, including a specific assessment of the potential negative impacts on the OUV of the property in accordance with the new "Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context”, before approval. In addition, the project to translocate species in the Pendjari National Park continued despite the reservations of the IUCN. It is important that future translocations strictly adhere to international standards, in line with the IUCN 2013 Guidelines on Conservation Translocations, to ensure their success.

Significant efforts have been made to finalize and submit the 1/50,000 buffer zone boundary map of the property, in response to Decisions 41 COM 8B.3 and 44 COM 7B.79, and initiatives are underway to modify the boundaries of the property to strengthen its protection.

In view of these conclusions, it is recommended that the Committee request the States Parties to submit an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations and other points, for examination by the Committee at its 46th session, in order to consider, in the absence of significant progress in meeting the above-mentioned conditions, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. To support the efforts of the three States Parties, their engagement in a dialogue with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN on the state of the property, developments in the security situation and the international support needed to resolve the significant challenges facing the protection of the OUV of the property will be essential.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.3

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 44 COM 7B.79 adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/online, 2021),
  3. Deplores the new murderous attacks committed by armed groups in the property, and expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to all the staff of the national administrations in charge of the management of the property;
  4. Recognizing that the increase in the number of violent incidents linked to the presence of armed groups in the area of the property is a direct consequence of the dramatic deterioration in the security situation in the Sahel region, expresses its deepest concern that the increase in the number of attacks committed by armed groups in the area of the property has led to the evacuation of staff and the absence of field management in the Burkinabe and Nigerien components;
  5. Expresses its utmost concern regarding the findings of the January 2022 reactive monitoring mission that the property is facing serious threats which could have detrimental effects on its essential characteristics, and that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property is subject to potential danger in accordance with paragraphs 180 b)iii) and 180 b)iv) of the Operational Guidelines;
  6. Notes also that the mission confirms that the elements justifying the OUV of the property remain present in the Benin component, but that the information and documentation available in the Burkinabe and Niger components do not allow an assessment at this stage of the extent of the impact of the presence of armed groups and illegal activities on the elements justifying the OUV in these components, and requests the States Parties to carry out aerial censuses on a regular basis using the same methodology allowing comparison of results and consequently the identification of wildlife population trends;
  7. Urges the States Parties, in collaboration with technical and financial partners, to implement the recommendations established by the 2022 reactive monitoring mission in order to strengthen the management and protection of the components of the OUV of the property and to reinforce dialogue and communication with all stakeholders in the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations;
  8. Welcomes the efforts of the States Parties to address the security situation by strengthening the operational capacities of personnel, acquiring equipment, collecting and analyzing security information, reinforcing surveillance patrols and joint operations with the defense and security forces, and drawing up strategic framework and operational planning documents such as Priority Intervention Plans (PIPs) for the various components of the property, and urges the States Parties to pursue and strengthen these efforts, in particular through the implementation of PIPs and the recommendations of the second Council of Ministers of the three countries of 23 June 2023 in Benin in favour of joint efforts to secure and preserve the Transboundary Complex, with the support of the technical and financial partners involved;
  9. Thanks the technical and financial partners who support the conservation of the property, notably through funding from the Government of Germany, the Adaptation Fund, the European Union and the Government of Norway, and appeals to the international community to further support the efforts of States Parties to ensure sustainable financing of the property, notably through the consolidation of the West African Savannah Foundation (WASF);
  10. Further notes the progress made in implementing the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement on the Harmonized Management of Protected Areas of the W-Arly-Pendjari Transboundary Complex, and further encourages the States Parties to make available sufficient technical and financial resources for the proper functioning of the Executive Secretariat and the other governance bodies provided for therein;
  11. Commends the States Parties for the adoption of a Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) for the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex and further encourages them to integrate the adaptation measures foreseen therein into the various strategic framework and operational planning documents of the property's protected areas, and to establish a multi-hazard early warning system for the property;
  12. Notes the commitment of the State Party of Benin to carry out Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) for the various infrastructure projects carried out and planned in the Beninese component of the property, and reiterates that all new projects must be subject to an ESIA prior to approval, including a specific assessment of potential negative impacts on the OUV of the property, in accordance with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context;
  13. Takes note of the map of the boundaries of the buffer zone of the property at a scale of 1/50,000 submitted in response to Decisions 41 COM 8B.3 and 44 COM 7B.79, welcomes the initiatives undertaken by the States Parties of Benin and Niger to modify the boundaries of the buffer zone of the property in order to strengthen its protection, and further requests the States Parties to submit a request for minor modifications to the boundaries to reflect these modifications by 1 February 2024 for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session;
  14. Further urges the States Parties to strengthen dialogue and communication with all stakeholders in the implementation of the above recommendations, which could be supported through an emergency international assistance request to the World Heritage Fund and the "Initiative to Support the Sustainable Management of the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex" project funded by the Government of Norway, the first national technical consultation of which was held in Niger from 30 May to 1 June 2023, in preparation for national technical consultations in Burkina Faso and Benin, as well as the round table of technical and financial partners of the property;
  15. Requests furthermore the States Parties to invite a new joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to address the shortcomings identified by the January 2022 mission, to assess the measures undertaken by the States Parties to restore security in the property and resume their management, and to determine whether the OUV is still subject to potential danger;
  16. Further requests the States Parties to submit, by 1 February 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the above-mentioned recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session, considering that the urgent conservation needs of this property require a broad mobilization to preserve its Outstanding Universal Value, including a possible inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.