UNEP to Deploy Technical Mission to Virunga National Park
Nairobi, 10 August 2007 - The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner met today in Nairobi with H.E. Mr. Didace Pembe Bokiaga, Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation, Water and Forestry of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They reviewed in detail the escalating situation in the Virunga National Park, which resulted recently in the death of a park ranger and injuries to others, as well as the death of a number of mountain gorillas, the rarest of the great apes.
"The instability surrounding the Virungas is an illustration of the unfolding human and environmental tragedy. The park is home to 50% of the mountain gorilla population and to numerous other endemic and endangered species. As such, it is the duty of the international community to assist the DRC authorities", said Mr. Steiner at the conclusion of the meeting.
Based on a request from the Minister, he announced the immediate dispatch of a UNEP technical team to assist the Congolese authorities and stressed the need to stabilize the situation around the National Park. The Executive Director is in contact with other UN partners based in the Congo to that effect.
"The continuing problems in the Virungas reveal the need for a sustainable solution to the management of the Park and other protected areas in DRC", Mr. Steiner said. He underlined that any lasting approach must involve the local communities and the protection of their livelihoods, and he pledged to support the Government in identifying appropriate courses of action.
"I am also very pleased that other partners of UNEP are conscious of the necessity to provide assistance, such as UNESCO and a number of non-governmental organizations, with whom we collaborate in the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP)", he added.
During the meeting with Minister Pembe, the Executive Director agreed to work with the Government of the DRC to develop a post conflict environmental assessment programme which will take into account issues of capacity building, waste management, the development of a framework environmental law, and legislation to strengthen the forestry code. A commitment was also made for the rehabilitation of the Presidential Park of N'Sele.
While in Nairobi, H.E. Mr. Pembe, in his capacity as Chair of the Meetings of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, also held also consultations with UNEP's officials in prelude to the 19th meeting of the Partners and the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Montreal protocol.
For More Information Please Contact Melanie Virtue, UNEP's Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP) Coordinator, Telephone: +254 20 762-4163, email: Melanie.Virtue@unep.org
UNEP News Release 2007/24