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Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 2023*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Mining
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Intensive poaching of large mammals, in particular elephants
  • Mining activities inside the property
  • Uncontrolled migration into the villages located within the property
  • Illegal timber exploitation in the Ituri Forest, which might affect the property in the near future
  • Planned rehabilitation of the National Road RN4 crossing the property, for which no proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted 
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Impact of the conflict: looting of the infrastructures, poaching of elephants
  • Presence of gold mining sites inside the property
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Indicators adopted in 2009 and revised in 2014, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5983

Corrective Measures for the property

Adopted in 2009 and revised in 2014, see page  https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5983 

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

In progress

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2023

Total amount granted: USD 1,450,000, from the United Nations Foundation (UNF), Government of Belgium, the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPF), USD 550,000 from the Government of Norway (2020- 2022)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2023
Requests approved: 4 (from 1993-2012)
Total amount approved : 103,400 USD
Missions to the property until 2023**

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

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/718/documents/. A progress report was further submitted by the management authority in February 2023 in the framework of a technical project. These reports include the following:

  • Efforts to remove armed groups and illegal miners from the property continue. In 2021, 175 law enforcement patrols grouped into three large-scale operations covered more than 12,700 km (almost 37% of the property). A total of 202 people were removed, and 84 arrests linked mainly to poaching and illegal mining were made of which 28 cases involving 57 arrested persons are pending court hearings. A ranger’s position was installed at the closed illegal gold mining site of Bapela. A large-scale awareness raising campaign was organized in other illegal mining sites, urging miners to vacate the area before being forcefully removed. However, some semi-industrial mining operations are being conducted, including by foreign companies in the possession of mining titles issued illegally by the mining regulatory authorities (CAMI). The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) is continuing its high-level lobbying to have these permits invalidated;
  • Pressure from artisanal and semi-industrial mining activities in the property is increasing and facilitating other illegal activities. The persistent and even increasing insecurity is hampering the efforts to control illegal mining and is leading to increased migration into the property. New access roads are being opened by these semi-industrial mining operations, facilitating access into the property and enabling illegal logging, agricultural invasions, poaching and the establishment of illegal settlements;
  • To combat illegal trafficking of natural resources, in particular poaching of Okapi, intelligence is gathered combined with awareness raising activities. Four checkpoints are active on the National Road 4 (RN4) crossing the property to check vehicle traffic for bushmeat and other illegal products;
  • 58 new rangers were recruited, and a new rapid intervention unit is being created, equipped, and trained. A military officer of the special army Corps responsible for security of the National Parks and relevant protected areas (CorPPN) is now permanently stationed at the property and facilitating cooperation with the military operating in the region;
  • The construction of the necessary infrastructure to enable effective protection and management of the property continued with the construction of offices and the acquisition of vehicles;
  • Income generating activities are being supported in the villages through the community conservation governance board (Conseil de Gouvernance de Conservation Communautaire). Eight local stays and passages control committees (Comités de contrôle des séjours et des passages) were re-trained on guidelines for access to natural resources in demarcated agricultural zones in the property;
  • Discussions are underway with the traditional authorities to demarcate the western boundary of the property. These discussions are hampered by the presence of a mining company inside the property in this area;
  • Re-stocking the Okapi breeding station by capturing some specimens in the property has been delayed;
  • Discussions are underway with several donors to substantially increase funding for the management of the property.

The existence of semi-industrial mining sites was confirmed by a UNESCO project evaluation mission that visited the property in 2022.

On 14 April 2023, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting additional information on the status of artisanal and semi-industrial mining activities in the property and the measures taken to address this issue. At the time of writing of this report, no reply was received from the State Party.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2023

The expansion of mining and the associated increase of illegal activities is jeopardizing the integrity of the property and therefore directly affecting its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). Noting also that efforts to set up a commission with CAMI to resolve the issue of the concessions issued within the property have so far not led to any concrete results, it is of utmost importance that illegal mining is addressed urgently by the State Party at the highest level in line with the commitments made in 2011 and that all mining permits issued within the property are revoked by the mining authorities, that the mining sites inside the property are closed and restored, and access roads to these mining sites blocked.

The presence of semi-industrial mining operations within the property also complicates the aforementioned efforts to clarify the western boundaries of the property with the traditional and local authorities.

While the efforts to strengthen the law enforcement capacity in the property through the recruitment of additional rangers, arrest and prosecution of illegal hunters and miners, and the establishment of a second rapid intervention team is welcomed, it is concerning that patrol coverage is continuing a downward trend in recent years, decreasing from 52% in 2016, 47% in 2019 to 37% in 2021, which is well below the 60% corrective measure threshold. It is hoped that the additional recruitment of rangers will make it possible to progressively increase the coverage once again and that discussions with different donors will result in increased funding for the property.

The intention to populate the okapi breeding station is noted, but it is reiterated that no action should be undertaken to initiate such an initiative before the security situation is stable. It is also recommended again that the State Party, as part of the update of the Integrated Management Plan (PAG), develop an integrated in-situ and ex-situ okapi conservation strategy and engage best practice expert guidance, such as through the IUCN Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group.

It is regrettable that the report provides no assessment of progress towards meeting the indicators defined in the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), and that it has again not addressed previous Committee concerns and requests. No data are provided, for example concerning the number of residents in the property and the villages located along the RN4, to assess the impacts of the increase in populations on land-use within the property. It is also regrettable that no information is provided on the update of the PAG and the formalization of the Central Integral Conservation Zone. It is clear from the information provided on the implementation of the corrective measures that the management of the property remains challenging in light of persistent insecurity and the increasing threats of mining and associated illegal resource use. It would therefore be important to provide the previously collected SMART data in order to enable an assessment of the impacts of illegal activities on the OUV of the property and data concerning progress accomplished with regard to the indicators defined in the DSOCR.

Given the increasing threats to the OUV of the property, in particular as a result of the increased pressure from mining and the emergence of semi-industrial mining operations inside the property, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property.

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

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2023
45 COM 7A.7
Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 718)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 43 COM 7A.9 and 44 COM 7A.43 adopted at its 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the efforts undertaken by the State Party to further strengthen the surveillance of the property but reiterates once more its concern regarding the persistent insecurity in the region, which limits surveillance coverage and effective management of the property, also reiterates its request to the State Party to implement all the corrective measures in order to restore the integrity of the property and calls upon donors to provide the necessary financial support;
  4. Expresses its utmost concern about the continuous and increasing pressure from illegal mining in the property, including the emergence of semi-industrial mining operations approved by the mining regulatory authorities within the boundaries of the property, in contradiction to the protected area legislation, coupled with persistent insecurity, which results in large-scale deforestation and environmental damage, and also facilitates access to the property and attracts further migrants into the property leading to further illegal settlements, agricultural invasions, illegal logging and increased poaching pressure, and considers that the expansion of mining and associated illegal activities is jeopardizing the integrity of the property and therefore directly affecting its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  5. Recalls the commitments made by the State Party as part of the 2011 Kinshasa Declaration, in particular to enforce the conservation laws and mining code, which forbid any mining in protected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urges the State Party to urgently address the issues of illegal mining at the highest level, to revoke all mining permits attributed within the property, close all mining sites inside the property and access roads to them and initiate restoration activities in the degraded areas;
  6. Regrets again that no information was provided on the updating of the Integrated Management Plan (PAG) for the property and the formalization of the Central Integral Conservation Zone and urges again the State Party to expedite these processes to integrate provisions relating to the different zones of the property, including the subsistence zones, the Central Integral Conservation Zone and forestry concessions for local communities, and ensure immediate implementation;
  7. Notes again the intention to repopulate the okapi breeding station and also urges again the State Party to postpone any plans to capture okapi from the wild until the security situation is stable and to develop an integrated in-situ/ex-situ conservation strategy as part of the PAG for the long-term sustainability of okapi within the property, consulting best practice expert guidance, such as the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group;
  8. Also welcomes the continued efforts for the participatory demarcation process of the western boundary of the property including through the support provided by the World Heritage Centre with funding from the Government of Norway, and requests the State Party to finalize the full demarcation of the property boundaries;
  9. Requests again the State Party to provide further details on:
    1. The number of residents within the villages located inside the property in order to assess the impacts of population increases on land-use in the property,
    2. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) data to enable an assessment of the impact of illegal activities on the OUV of the property,
    3. Data concerning progress accomplished with regard to the indicators defined in the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  10. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its state of conservation, the status of increased threats and impacts from semi-industrial mining, implementation of the corrective measures, and the progress towards achieving the DSOCR;
  11. Further 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 to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  13. Also decides to retain Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
45 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/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:
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 45 COM 7A.51)
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 45 COM 7A.52)
  • Austria, Historic Centre of Vienna (Decision 45 COM 7A.55)
  • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosí (Decision 45 COM 7A.18)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 45 COM 7A.3)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 45 COM 7A.4)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 45 COM 7A.5)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 45 COM 7A.6)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 45 COM 7A.7)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 45 COM 7A.8)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 45 COM 7A.26)
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 45 COM 7A.1)
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 45 COM 7A.15)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 45 COM 7A.27)
  • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 45 COM 7A.28)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 45 COM 7A.29)
  • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 45 COM 7A.31)
  • Kenya, Lake Turkana National Parks (Decision 45 COM 7A.10)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Decision 45 COM 7A.33)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Decision 45 COM 7A.34)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Decision 45 COM 7A.35)
  • Libya, Old Town of Ghadamès (Decision 45 COM 7A.36)
  • Libya, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Decision 45 COM 7A.37)
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 45 COM 7A.11)
  • Mali, Old Towns of Djenné (Decision 45 COM 7A.22)
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 45 COM 7A.23)
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 45 COM 7A.24)
  • Mexico, Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Decision 45 COM 7A.2)
  • Micronesia (Federated States of), Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Decision 45 COM 7A.53)
  • Niger, Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 45 COM 7A.12)
  • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 45 COM 7A.39)
  • Palestine, Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Decision 45 COM 7A.38)
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 45 COM 7A.19)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 45 COM 7A.20)
  • Romania, Roșia Montană Mining Landscape (Decision 45 COM 7A.56)
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 45 COM 7A.13)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 45 COM 7A.57)
  • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 45 COM 7A.16)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 45 COM 7A.40)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 45 COM 7A.41)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 45 COM 7A.42)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 45 COM 7A.43)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 45COM 7A.44)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 45 COM 7A.45)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 45 COM 7A.14)
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 45 COM 7A.17)
  • Uzbekistan, Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Decision 45 COM 7A.54)
  • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Coro and its Port (Decision 45 COM 7A.21)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 45 COM 7A.47)
  • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 45 COM 7A.49)
  • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 45 COM 7A.50)
3.    Recalls that the following properties were inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 18th extraordinary session (UNESCO, 2023):
  • Lebanon, Rachid Karami International Fair-Tripoli (Decision 18 EXT.COM 5.1)
  • Ukraine, The Historic Centre of Odesa (Decision 18 EXT.COM 5.2)
  • Yemen, Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba, Marib (Decision 18 EXT.COM 5.3)
Draft Decision: 45 COM 7A.7

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 43 COM 7A.9 and 44 COM 7A.43, adopted at its 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the efforts undertaken by the State Party to further strengthen the surveillance of the property but reiterates once more its concern regarding the persistent insecurity in the region, which limits surveillance coverage and effective management of the property, also reiterates its request to the State Party to implement all the corrective measures in order to restore the integrity of the property and calls upon donors to provide the necessary financial support;
  4. Expresses its utmost concern about the continuous and increasing pressure from illegal mining in the property, including the emergence of semi-industrial mining operations approved by the mining regulatory authorities within the boundaries of the property, in contradiction to the protected area legislation, coupled with persistent insecurity, which results in large-scale deforestation and environmental damage, and also facilitates access to the property and attracts further migrants into the property leading to further illegal settlements, agricultural invasions, illegal logging and increased poaching pressure, and considers that the expansion of mining and associated illegal activities is jeopardizing the integrity of the property and therefore directly affecting its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  5. Recalls the commitments made by the State Party as part of the 2011 Kinshasa Declaration, in particular to enforce the conservation laws and mining code, which forbid any mining in protected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urges the State Party to urgently address the issues of illegal mining at the highest level, to revoke all mining permits attributed within the property, close all mining sites inside the property and access roads to them and initiate restoration activities in the degraded areas;
  6. Regrets again that no information was provided on the updating of the Integrated Management Plan (PAG) for the property and the formalization of the Central Integral Conservation Zone and urges again the State Party to expedite these processes to integrate provisions relating to the different zones of the property, including the subsistence zones, the Central Integral Conservation Zone and forestry concessions for local communities, and ensure immediate implementation;
  7. Notes again the intention to repopulate the okapi breeding station and also urges again the State Party to postpone any plans to capture okapi from the wild until the security situation is stable and to develop an integrated in-situ/ex-situ conservation strategy as part of the PAG for the long-term sustainability of okapi within the property, consulting best practice expert guidance, such as the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group;
  8. Also welcomes the continued efforts for the participatory demarcation process of the western boundary of the property including through the support provided by the World Heritage Centre with funding from the Government of Norway, and requests the State Party to finalize the full demarcation of the property boundaries;
  9. Requests again the State Party to provide further details on:
    1. The number of residents within the villages located inside the property in order to assess the impacts of population increases on land-use in the property,
    2. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) data to enable an assessment of the impact of illegal activities on the OUV of the property,
    3. Data concerning progress accomplished with regard to the indicators defined in the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  10. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess its state of conservation, the status of increased threats and impacts from semi-industrial mining, implementation of the corrective measures, and the progress towards achieving the DSOCR;
  11. Further 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 to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism for the property;
  13. Also decides to retain Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2023
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of Inscription: 1996
Category: Natural
Criteria: (x)
Danger List (dates): 1997-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2022) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2022
arrow_circle_right 45COM (2023)
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.