The countries of the Greater Virunga Landscape – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, met in Gisenyi from 14th to 15th July 2008, and at the end of the meeting signed a ministerial declaration, which is reproduced verbatim below:
The Rubavu Ministerial Declaration of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration
Ministers and high level representatives of the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Uganda, in a ministerial conference convened by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Secretariat in partnership with the United States of America and attended by the representatives of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and other Partners
Mindful that the Greater Virunga landscape represents a unique world heritage containing biological diversity, with about 43 percent of Africa’s bird species, 27 percent of Africa’s mammals, at least 414 endemic species, 96 threatened species and the last remaining mountain gorilla population on Earth;
Reaffirming the commitments of the Ministerial Tripartite Declaration of Goma signed on October 14, 2005, and the Ten Year Transboundary Strategic Plan adopted on May 29, 2006;
Recalling the launch of the Transboundary Strategic Plan on February 20, 2008 by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the Office Rwandais du Tourisme et des Parc Nationaux (ORTPN) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA);
Aware that the ecosystem of the Greater Virunga landscape and its species hold enormous socio-economic potential for the people living in the region
Mindful that fully realizing this socio-economic potential depends on a secure, sustainable and safe environment for investment in ecotourism and related activities among others, and on finding sustainable alternatives for local communities who rely on these ecosystems for their livelihoods.
Seriously concerned that armed groups operating in the region and particularly the protected areas are destroying natural habitat, destroying wildldife, destroying people’s lives and threatening conservation and tourism efforts;
Recalling the recent killing of rangers, mountain gorillas and other wildlife
Aware of the importance of good governance and the role local communities play in ensuring the conservation and sustainable management of the biodiversity in the Greater Virunga Landscape
To urge governments and development partners to promote investment in infrastructure that supports conservation, accelerated tourism development as well as alternative sources of livelihoods;
To ensure ecotourism supports the economic development of local communities, the health of wildlife, and the long-term sustainability of the region’s natural resources;
To support and strengthen policies that ensure fair and transparent revenue sharing to allow benefits from ecotourism to accrue to local communities;
To commit to support the institutionalization of the various organs of our Greater Virunga Tansboundary collaboration
To pledge to support our Protected Area Authorities in raising more funds for supporting the activities reflected in the transboundary strategic plan.
To urge governments and development partners to support exisiting regional and international efforts to promote regional security, in particular disarmament and the evacuationof armed groups in DRC from protected areas, which is critical to the sustainable development and conservation of biodiversity in the region.
To appeal to our governments and development partners to support effective peace making processes and come up with innovative financing of poverty reduction strategies in the Greater Virunga Landscape.
Honourable Monique Nsanzabaganwa
Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda
Hon. Serapio Rukundo
Minister of State, Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities of the Republic of Uganda
Abel Leon Kalambayi Wa Kabongo
Secretary General, Representing the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Honourable Claudia McMurray,
Assistant Secretary of State for Ocean Environment and Science,
United States Department of Science
First Secretary, Great Lakes, Natural Resources
The Kingdom of Netherlands Embassy in Rwanda