World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today issued the following statement from Jan Vertefeuille, senior director of campaigns, in response to the announcement that London-listed oil exploration company, Soco International PLC has pledged to stop exploring for oil in Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga National Park.
“Today’s pledge by Soco to stop exploring for oil in Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, is a monumental win for conservation and for the people who depend on the park. Virunga is home to astounding biodiversity and rare wildlife, like critically endangered mountain gorillas.
“Soco also committed to never explore for oil in any other World Heritage Sites. This is a game-changing victory for conservation that sends a strong message that World Heritage Sites and other fragile natural areas must be off-limits to development.
“Virunga has the potential to be worth more than US$1.1 billion annually if developed sustainably, rather than being exploited for possibly damaging oil extraction.
“More than 750,000 advocates around the world helped make this victory possible by signing WWF’s petition calling for an end to exploration in the park. That effort was bolstered by the diplomatic leadership of the U.S. Department of State and the efforts of members of Congress, led by Representative Karen Bass, who also worked to ensure the continued protection of Virunga.
“But the fight is not over yet. We urge the Democratic Republic of Congo to cancel all oil concessions in Virunga, and permanently protect its precious biodiversity and preserve the park’s Lake Edward, which over 50,000 families depend on for jobs, food and drinking water.”
The Global Secretariat for World Wildlife Fund in Gland, Switzerland (WWF) filed a complaint against Soco in October 2013 under the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The company’s pledge follows mediation between the two parties as part of the complaint. Soco has also committed to remain out of all other United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites.
Read WWF and Soco's joint statement here.