Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders attended the ceremony for the creation of the Virunga Foundation Belgium at Château Val Duchesse in Brussels, on Thursday 7 May. In the presence of Minister of State François-Xavier de Donnea, trustee of the Virunga Foundation United Kingdom and Emmanuel de Merode, CEO of the Virunga Foundation United Kingdom and director of the Virunga National Park, Didier Reynders stressed the commitment of Belgium to preserve the Virunga Park.
Virunga is the oldest park in Africa and hosts the largest number of mammals, birds and reptiles, but is also the most threatened park in Africa. The massive presence of armed groups throughout the park, increasing population pressure, illegal mining, exploitation of charcoal, illegal fishing, poaching and especially oil exploitation projects are constant threats to the rich biodiversity of the park.
The aim of the new Virunga Foundation Belgium is to promote the reputation of the Virunga National Park, located in the North Kivu, and to contribute to the financing of social projects and sustainable development, in the Park or for the benefit of its active or retired staff, their families and local communities.
Didier Reynders emphasized the importance of raising awareness among Congolese and international actors, as well as identifying and denouncing these threats and helping to find alternatives. Belgium supports, through direct or indirect means, projects that contribute to the improvement of living conditions of local communities.