“Ecology is flow. You and I are most definitely part of the flow. Everything we do affects the flow. Everything the flow does affects us.”
Last week BBC, Bloomberg and many others reported the horrifying news that the Democratic Republic of Congo was considering “whether to open up swathes of two world-famous national parks to oil exploration”. Both, Virunga and Salonga are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These two highly biodiverse protected areas are courageously conserved by rangers and environmental defenders because of their importance to the common heritage of humanity. They represent an outstanding universal value and any project of partial disaffection could be considered as a threat to the last remaining great apes and an inhuman act intentionally causing great suffering to the thousands of local communities and indigenous peoples who depend on these exceptional values for their survival as well as to the whole of humanity, present and future generations.
On the 8th of June the DRC government has given its authorization to set up an inter-ministerial commission whose mission is to prepare the decommissioning of 172,075 hectares (1720.75 Km2) or 21,5% of Virunga National Park within blocks IV and V, and part of block 2 in Salonga National Park, all of this to accommodate oil exploration and exploitation in DRC’s most enigmatic protected areas. The final proposal will need to be approved by the council of ministers.
Despite this news the fight to protect Virunga is much stronger today than it was a few years ago. People from all over the world is mobilizing against these developments from global environmental leaders such as Leonardo DiCaprio, to concerned governments, and most importantly to ordinary people like you and you, and…many more
“A revolution can go no faster nor further than people themselves.”
Rob Hunter’s MIND BOMB has already been planted, thanks to initiatives like The Virunga Movie, Global Witness investigations, DRC Local civil society tireless fight and WWF campaign, our attention has been captured and there is no way we will allow oil drilling in these irreplaceable places. Together we are strong and our actions will speak louder than words. We will continue showing the world that Virunga and Salonga matters to all of us.
Here below are the steps we need to continue taking in order to stop oil exploration in Virunga.
1. Communities need access to information.
Communities need to be aware of what is happening at a local, provincial, national and international level. They need to be aware and prepared of the possible impacts of such economic and oil developments. They have a right to information.
2. Local mobilization and long-term engagement is key for the survival of Virunga
Communities need to be empowered and able to voice their concerns. If this is not done Governments and companies will co-opt their voices. Companies and oil interests can come back after many years of “inactivity”, long-term engagement at local level is Virunga’s first line of defense.
3. Local actors and communities need to be secured when expressing their views against oil.
Communities will be always the first frontline defenders, if they fall much is lost.
4. Government and companies need to respect communities’ right to give or withhold their consent to proposed projects that may affect their livelihoods.
Strengthening the FPIC principle is also key when joining forces in community conservation.
5. Support the new economic model for the development of the North Kivu based on the green potential of the park (Virunga Alliance).
6. Collaboration and cohabitation between national, local and park authorities always need to be at the base of any sustainable development alternative model.
Virunga is one of the few win-win scenarios in Eastern DR-Congo. Local authorities, the national government and international community of DR-Congo have a real choice. They can choose for what is right for the stability of the country and for the Congolese people. Virunga offers a real option to oil; activities such as sustainable development in the park could generate more resources and guarantees of security for local communities.
Help us continue spread the word and support the DRC government to make the right choice for the people, for Congo, for Virunga, Salonga and all the rest of its protected areas.