Congo - Heritage in Danger Protecting the wonders of the Democratic Republic of CongoExhibition - Concert - International ConferenceUnesco Headquarters, Paris, 10-26 September 2004The conflict that has ravaged the Great Lakes region has resulted in the loss of countless lives. It has also caused severe damage to the exceptional biodiversity of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC’s five natural sites, the four National Parks of Virunga, of Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega and Salonga and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, are today on the List of World Heritage in Danger. It is vital to preserve this exceptionally rich ecosystem, part of a tropical forest that is second only to the Amazonian forest. This is the goal set by UNESCO and the United Nations Foundation in organizing the first major international event in support of Congo’s World Heritage in danger.
Is it possible to protect heritage in time of war? This was the challenge facing UNESCO in the DRC in 2000 and which led to the launch of the “Biodiversity Conservation in Regions of Armed Conflict: Conserving World Heritage Sites in the DRC” programme, developed with the United Nations Foundation (created in 1998 by Ted Turner), the government of the DRC and a series of conservation organizations working in DRC. The five sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger abound in rare animals, including the last of the bonobo chimpanzees, many of the last surviving mountain gorillas, the elusive wild okapis and the last surviving white rhino population. Situated for the most part in the east of the country on the border with Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan, the parks have been devastated by the impact of armed conflict. Park guards often risk their lives in the struggle to maintain the Congo’s heritage.
From September 10-26, the general public will be offered the opportunity to appreciate the treasures of these World Heritage Sites and to take stock of the threats against them. Placed under the high patronage of Mr Jacques Chirac, President of France, and Mr Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, three main events will set the pace for this occasion (see detailed programme next page):
1. A major exhibition “Congo–Nature and Culture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”; conceived by the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium from 10-26 September and under the high patronage of His Majesty Albert II, King of the Belgians;
2. A fund-raising concert “CONGO – Rhythm and Rumba" which will gather major talents of Congolese rumba on 23 September.
3. An international donors’ conference, from 16-17 September (open to the press).
Thank you for your help in making the general public aware of the urgent need to conserve our environment and its fragile natural resources.
FAX - RSVP : http://www.unesco.org/bpi/eng/unescopress/pdf/congofaxrep04-52eng.pdf
Journalists requiring more information on the sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger
in the DRC should contact: Lora Houssaye
Bureau of Public Information and Cultural Events (BPI/PCE), UNESCO Headquarters: 7 place de Fontenoy - 75007 Paris, Tel. : 01 45 68 05 15 - Fax : 01 45 68 56 40 – e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org