Protection of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Question for oral answer O-000108/2015
to the Commission
Linda McAvan, on behalf of the Committee on Development
Virunga National Park (VNP) is Africa’s most biodiverse park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many iconic animals (gorillas, okapis, elephants, etc.). However, it has become one of the most dangerous places in the world when it comes to wildlife conservation. Irreversible damage may be done to the park as a result of the exploration and exploitation of oil and other illegal activities. Oil concessions have been granted in the VNP in violation of international conventions to which the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a signatory. Serious human rights breaches and much violence have stemmed from conflicts with armed guerrillas, especially FDLR and Mai-Mai militias.
1. The EU is in a unique position to coordinate a diplomatic response by its Member States and other potential donors. What initiatives does the Commission intend to take to persuade the DRC Government to renounce oil exploration and exploitation in the park and at other World Heritage Sites?
2. What steps does the Commission intend to take to help the DRC Government address armed conflicts and support sustainable development and peace-building in the VNP and the surrounding region? What initiatives will the Commission take to help the DRC Government investigate acts of violence against human rights defenders and park wardens (including the Chief Warden, who was shot at by three gunmen in 2014)?
3. What legal mechanisms does the Commission intend to put in place to ensure that the recommendations contained in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are enforced, and that foreign investors comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights?
4. What concrete steps does the Commission envisage taking to uphold the integrity of the park and to help the DRC Government develop sustainable energy and economic alternatives to extractive industries? What initiatives does it envisage taking to help the DRC authorities combat corruption and improve governance?
5. The Commission is financing a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of oil exploration/exploitation in the Northern Albertine Rift region, including in the VNP. What measures does the EU intend to take to make the SEA a real decision-making tool?