Alexander De Croo and Didier Reynders on the temporary closing of Virunga

Deputy Prime and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders regret the worsening security situation causing the temporary closing of the Virunga National Park in East Congo. The closing of the Virunga Park is a serious blow for the region where about four million people live. 

The Virunga National Park is a unique ecosystem where biodiversity, social and economic development of the local population and the stabilisation of the region go hand in hand. The Virunga employs 3.000 people. The park is the largest employer in North Kivu. Last year, a record number of 10.000 tourists visited the park. 

The Belgian development cooperation has been an active donor for years. It supports a wide range of projects in and around the Virunga National Park. As an illustration, Belgium co-finances to the tune of 3.5 million euros a projet run by the European Commission to improve forest management in DRC. The Belgian financing is used to professionalize the guards of the Virunga Park. Belgium also supports the construction of a hydroelectric plant located on the northern border of Virunga (3,4 million euros) aimed to contribute to the social and economic development of the city of Lubero. 

The presence of armed groups, the illegal exploitation of mines and charcoal, illegal fishing and poaching have however been threatening the park and the local population for years.

The ministers hope that it will be possible to continue the activities which Belgium supports. They hope that a solution can quickly be found in order to improve the security within and around the park. This is not only important for tourism and the revenues which it generates. It is also important for the protection of the unique biodiversity of the Virunga, the development of the local economy around the park and the living conditions of the 4 million people of the region.