1994: Virunga Inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

The remains of a destroyed luxury resort built by the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in Virunga National Park and occupied by rebels during the long-running conflict in eastern Congo are seen through a vehicle windscreen riddled with bullet holes on Aug. 28.
Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

UNESCO Committee Resolution 1994

Virunga National Park (Zaire): The Committee recalled that at its last session it was deeply concerned about the civil unrest in Zaire which led to donors (EEC and USAID) suspending their support to this site. Many Park staff had not been remunerated for almost a year. Despite the fact the Bureau granted emergency assistance of US$ 20,000 to meet costs of field operations, poaching of wildlife has continued and the capability of staff to patrol the 650 km long boundary of the Park remains far below desirable levels. Human population in the fishing village near Lake Idi Amin has grown several fold and poses a serious threat to the integrity of the Park.

Since July 1994, the threats to the Park have exacerbated several fold by the influx of almost 1 million refugees, fleeing the war in Rwanda, adjacent to the southern parts of the Park. The fuelwood demand of the refugees camped inside the Park, estimated at 600 metric tons/day, is leading to widespread depletion of forests in the lowlands; the Mountain Gorilla and its habitats at higher elevations, fortunately, have not been
impacted so far.

The Committee was informed by the Representative of IUCN that the Director of the Zairois Institute for the Conservation of Nature has verbally indicated his agreement to IUCN’s suggestion of placing this site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Accordingly, the Committee *[21] included Virunga National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee recognized that a major effort over the next decade will be needed to rehabilitate and strengthen management of Virunga and obtain local support for its conservation. Furthermore, the Committee requested the Centre to communicate its decision to UNHCR and other agencies involved in the management of refugee camps in and around Virunga and express its concern over depletion of forest resources in the Park, stressing that utmost care be taken to avoid establishment of refugee camps in or near national parks. The Committee also asked the Centre to inform the Government of Zaire of its willingness to co-operate with IUCN as well as WWF, World Bank, UNDP, UNHCR and GTZ and provide technical cooperation and training assistance to address threats to the integrity of Virunga.

Source: UNESCO WHC RECom94