Declaration by the UNESCO Director General concerning Virunga National Park, World Heritage site

Thursday, 30 October 2008
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The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, said today he was alarmed by the violent incidents taking place in the province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mr Matsuura voice his support to the statement made earlier by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, calling on "all parties to immediately cease hostilities and pursue in good faith efforts to resolve peacefully the issues."

"The escalation of violence in recent weeks threatens the integrity of a DRC World Heritage site, Virunga National Park, which comprises outstanding biological diversity and provides the habitat for the last populations of mountain gorillas, a highly endangered species," declared the Director-General. "According to the information I have received, the park rangers can no longer patrol and the gorillas' habitat is threatened by the persistent shooting." Mr Matsuura also stressed that a site's inscription on the World Heritage List confirms its outstanding universal value and engages the responsibility of the entire international community to ensure its protection.

The Director-General called on all combatants to respect the integrity of the World Heritage site and to settle their conflict peacefully.