In November 1997, IUCN was informed that conflicts between armed groups had rendered a significant portion of the Park off-limits to staff and that tourism to the area had come to a halt. The twenty-second session of the Bureau requested IUCN to review a report from the Colombian authorities to the Centre and submit its findings to its twenty-second extraordinary session. IUCN informed the Bureau in November 1998 that a major restructuring of Colombia’s conservation administration was underway for devolving responsibilities for the site management to the provincial level. However, IUCN was of the view that the site was under serious threat and should be considered for inclusion in the List of World Heritage in Danger. A second report from the Colombian authorities informed the Bureau that the Park was affected by the confrontation between guerrilla and paramilitary groups and that four sectors of the Park received only limited attention from the staff. However, in 1997 and 1998 activities to strengthen protection of the Park through control units and other activities such as inter-institutional meetings, collaboration with local communities, definition of the buffer zone and the elaboration of the management plan, had been undertaken. Support for the creation and consolidation of the Darien Special Management Area (DSMA) to co-ordinate the management of the two World Heritage sites (Darien of Panama and Los Katios of Colombia) has been provided and actions to create a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve were being considered. The Bureau noted the State Party’s conclusion that, although there have been impacts, the Park has not been invaded by colonists and pressure on the Park and its natural resources had reduced considerably. Preventive measures had been taken for the security of the personnel and the Park had returned to a certain normalcy and calm, allowing the staff to control the area and to implement operations. The State Party did not see any need for inclusion of Los Katios in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Bureau requested the Centre and IUCN to remain in contact with the State Party to monitor progress and to report back to the twenty-third session of the Bureau. The Bureau reiterated the Committee’s recommendation made at the time of the inscription of the site, to establish a single World Heritage site linking Darien (Panama) and Los Katios (Colombia).
In its review of the November 1998 report submitted by the State Party, IUCN has acknowledged progress made in the preparation of the management plan. IUCN has also noted improvements in co-operation with the local communities, promoting transboundary co-operation with Panama and preventing illegal extraction of resources in areas of the Park controlled by the staff. IUCN recommended that the Bureau compliment the State Party for these efforts despite the difficult situation facing this site. However, IUCN has reiterated its concern about the serious threats facing Los Katios and its integrity, highlighting that:
(a) the Park is not fully under the control of the management agency;
(b) the proposal to grant collective land ownership over 100,000 ha of the Park should be assessed; and
(c) the impacts on wetlands from forest fires need to be reviewed. IUCN recommended that a joint IUCN/Centre mission be carried out to the site.
The Observer of Colombia underlined the actions taken by his Government, in particular concerning:
(1) community participation; (2) inter-institutional co-operation among local authorities, NGO’s and communities; (3) progress made with the second phase of the management plan; and (4) with transfrontier co-operation with Darien National Park in Panama. He emphazised the commitment of his Government to the protection of the site and did not support the recommendation to include it on the List of World Heritage in Danger. He welcomed a technical mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the site.
The Bureau considered new information provided by the Government of Colombia and IUCN and requested the Centre and IUCN to keep in contact with the State Party to monitor progress made and to report back to the twenty-third session of the Committee, as well as concerning the organization of the proposed mission. The Bureau commended the States Party for progress made with regard to transfrontier management and reiterated the Committee's recommendation made at the time of the inscription of the site to establish a single World Heritage site linking Darien (Panama) and Los Katios (Colombia) World Heritage sites.