A large number of civil society organizations and local stakeholders signed a declaration demanding that the Congolese government takes meaningful action to protect the nature and people of Virunga National Park in DR Congo. Several IUCN NL partner organizations were involved in the coalition against the oil threat in Virunga.
The “Declaration of Butembo” urges the government to end the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the insecurity caused by armed groups. Involving local communities is put forward as the main strategy to improve the management of natural resources in the area. Traditional chiefs and civil society should play a large role in the mobilization of these communities.
The statement also addresses the locals’ fears about oil exploration by asking the government to cancel all acts authorizing exploration and possible exploitation. Finally, they request that the government complies with international treaties and conventions relating to the conservation of nature.
Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. It harbors a greater variety of plant and animal species than any other region in Africa and is home to the world’s last mountain gorillas. Local communities directly rely on nature as their life support: 50.000 people obtain clean water and fish from the ecosystems in the park. Virunga NP is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in danger. IUCN, the official World Heritage advisory body on nature, recently recommended maintaining the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This will be discussed during UNESCO’s annual World Heritage meeting, held from 16 June until 27 June in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.