UNESCO’s presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo dates back to 2000, when with the financial support of the United Nation’s Foundation (UNF) and the government of Belgium, it launched the project, “Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict: Conserving World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The goal of the project is to ensure the conservation of World Heritage sites in the DRC, both during periods of civil unrest and in the long-term, by mobilizing financial, logistical, technical and diplomatic support at regional and international levels. The project also aims to strengthen the conservation of World Heritage sites and the Congolese Wildlife Authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature).
Virunga National Park became a World Heritage Site in 1979, and was added to the list of sites in danger in 1994. The other World Heritage sites in the DRC, Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega and Salonga National Parks and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve are also in danger. In Virunga National Park, as in the other sites, UNESCO’s goal is to:
1. Bring direct field reinforcement;
2. Convince leaders and other authorities involved in Virunga NP, through diplomatic intervention of the need to ensure the security of park personnel and equipment;
3. Build capacity of personnel through training and establish collaborative long-term programs for training, surveillance, and monitoring;
4. Survey post-war status and establish long-term coordinated monitoring of biodiversity within World Heritage sites (please go to http://geoweb.ugent.be);
5. Supply timely communications in order to facilitate national and international response to crises facing the World Heritage sites - and communicate the broader need for conservation of biodiversity in the DRC;
6. Promote collaborative programs with indigenous communities, improving resource conservation;
7. Establish sustainable financing mechanisms to support Virunga NP in the long-term.
This project is implemented by the Congolese Wildlife Authority and a number of its partner conservation organizations working in Virunga NP, including World Wildlife Fund. The governments of Italy and Germany, the European Union, and the World Bank (through the Global Environment Fund) also contribute to the funding of this project.
UNESCO seeks to encourage, through its 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage worldwide considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.