The IUCN World Conservation Congress is the world’s largest and most important conservation event. Held every four years, it aims to improve how we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development.
The 2012 World Conservation Congress was held from 6 to 15 September 2012 in Jeju, Republic of Korea. Leaders from government, the public sector, non-governmental organizations, business, UN agencies and social organizations will discuss, debate and decide solutions for the world’s most pressing environment and development issues.
The Congress starts with a Forum where IUCN Members and partners discuss cutting-edge ideas, thinking and practice. The Forum leads into the Members’ Assembly, a unique global environmental parliament of governments and NGOs.
Effective conservation action cannot be achieved by conservationists alone. The 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress is the place to put aside differences and work together to provide the means and mechanisms for good environmental governance, engaging all parts of society to share both responsibilities and the benefits of conservation.
IUCN Memorandum on the Motion on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Occupying one-fifth of the Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a World Heritage Site, plays a key role in conserving 101 mammal species and 376 species of birds. Serving as refuge for the largest remaining population of forest elephants in the eastern DRC, the Reserve also protects about 5,000 of perhaps 10,000 wild okapi, the forest giraffid endemic only to the DRC. UNESCO rates the Reserve forests as among the best in the Congo Basin, with some 40,000 people living in and around it, including indigenous peoples, the Mbuti and Efe pygmies. The Mbuti and Efe rely on the Reserve, maintaining themselves and their cultures by utilizing a wide range of resources, including firewood, water and medicinal plants as well as small mammals from subsistence hunting.
When negotiations began in the late 1980′s to create the Reserve, chiefs in communities surrounding the proposed site entered into discussions with the government of what was then Zaire. Since the Reserve’s creation and regulations would affect them, the community chiefs outlined needs that should be met for their people. Confident about a grant from the World Bank, the government agreed to these requests.
When Zaire broke bilateral and multilateral cooperation with World Bank, the European Union, and large western donor countries in the early 1990s, the grant was never obtained. Although it was greatly affected by the resulting economic crisis, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) was able to pull together resources, assisted by international NGOs, that allowed it to create the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, the RFO, of 1,372,625 hectares of the Ituri forest in 1992.
In 1994, the ICCN and its partners promoted community conservation that would attend to the needs of the local communities, mostly assisting with agriculture. Although these efforts were interrupted by the country’s civil war, the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (USAID-CARPE), the RFO, and the Okapi Conservation Project continued to provide community assistance, fund agricultural and forestry programs, providing tools, and building schools and medical clinics. However, economic turmoil has led to an escalation of a food security crisis that has yet to be solved. With a high unemployment rate and depreciation of the currency, poaching, illegal mining, and bushmeat consumption continues to rise. Bushmeat (including chimpanzees and other primates) contributes to over 80 percent of rural African diets. Prices of elephant tusks have risen in value on the black market, and as of 2008, ivory poachers had killed at least a fifth of the elephants in the DRC.
As the demand for ivory, gold and bushmeat continues to grow, so too does the risk of rangers being killed by poachers. The rangers are currently patrolling with limited supplies. President Kabila, the government of the DRC, and the ICCN need financial and technical assistance to re-establish fuller protections to the RFO, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. An appeal launched by UNESCO in July 2012 intends to raise money for the reconstruction of the ICCN infrastructures, equip guards, provide food and medication for staff and guards, and assist the families of victims of the attack.
The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) is presently helping the families of the six people killed in the June 24 assault to cope with their losses, and has distributed over 4,000 lbs of food in July 2012 and is paying for medical care for families displaced from Epulu. Food rations to OCP and ICCN families in Mambassa, Epulu, Nia Nia and Beni will be distributed twice a month while they wait for security to be restored to the RFO, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. OCP remains deeply concerned for the remaining hostages being held and are working with all partners and ICCN in finding a way to return them to their families.
IUCN Motion for the Protection of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and communities of the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo
RECOGNIZING that conservation of the exceptional biodiversity of the Ituri Forest, including the okapi, eastern chimpanzee, and forest elephants has been carried out for two decades in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (known by its French acronym RFO) by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) supported by the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), US Agency for International Development, German Development Bank, and other partners;
UTTERLY DISMAYED by the murderous assault on 24 June 2012 at Epulu, where six local people, including two ICCN rangers, were killed, fourteen okapis slaughtered, and facilities of the RFO destroyed;
AWARE that this assault was conducted by some known elephant poachers in retaliation against enforcement by the ICCN of laws protecting elephants, okapis, and other species, and prohibiting illegal mining and other activities destructive of the ecological integrity of the RFO;
INFORMED that some members of FARDC, the national army of DRC responding to this assault, were involved in looting and ransacking facilities in or near Epulu of the ICCN, OCP, WCS, and Forest Biodiversity Project, and looting houses and shops in Epulu;
ALSO AWARE that many villagers were forced to carry looted materials by the leader of the poachers, as they moved back into the forest of the RFO; and that ten village women were still being held as hostages by them at the time of submission of this motion;
ENCOURAGED that the Government of DRC and FARDC are currently seeking to apprehend the leader of the poachers and his associates and rescue the hostages; and
RECALLING Resolution 2.37 Support for Environmental Defenders adopted by the 2nd IUCN World Conservation Congress (Amman, 2000) and Recommendation 4.119 Protection of Rangers Within and in Areas Adjacent to Protected Areas:
The IUCN World Conservation Congress, at its fifth session in Jeju, Republic of Korea, 6-15 September 2012:
1. URGES the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to apprehend and bring to justice the leader of the poachers and his associates, who conducted the assault in and near Epulu on 24 June 2012;
2. CALLS upon the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and leading officers of FARDC to identify, indict, and bring to justice members of FARDC who participated in ransacking conservation facilities and looting the village of Epulu in the aftermath of the assault by the lead of the poachers and his band on 24 June 2012;
3. APPLAUDS UNESCO for immediately extending financial support for the Emergency Fund of ICCN to help in protecting the RFO, which was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997;
4. THANKS those who have provided assistance by supplying food, medicines, and other supplies to ICCN rangers and families and the people of Epulu in wake of the assault;
5. CALLS UPON government and non-government Members of IUCN to assist the government of DRC, and ICCN with financial and technical help in their efforts to reestablish full protections to the RFO and to restore the community of Epulu;
6. ENCOURAGES other partners to bolster their support to ICCN and the people of Ituri Forest through science, education, agroforestry, community assistance, medical care, and immigration control;
8. RECOMMENDS to the government of DRC the desirability of ensuring that the core no-hunting zone of the RFO receives enhanced conservation and protection.
Wildlife Conservation Society NG-195
Conservation International INGO-851
EcoHealth Alliance INGO-602
International Species Information System INGO-1304
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums INGO-216
Association of Zoos and Aquariums NG-170
Center for Environmental Legal Studies NG-826
Center for Humans and Nature NG-24998
Chicago Zoological Society NG-179
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo NG-1048
Saint Louis Zoological Park NG-622
Zoological Society of London NG-252