Advocacy by NGOs, Including the Botanical Garden and the Center, Led to Accord to Address Shared Conservation and Biodiversity Challenges
Washington, DC—The Center for International Policy welcomes the landmark agreement by the governments of the United States and Cuba to dramatically increase the cooperation by the two countries on shared environmental issues.
The agreement, signed yesterday in Washington, D.C., will streamline the process for U.S. and Cuban scientists to work together toward the goal of protecting the biological resources of both countries. Under the terms of the accord, travel to Cuba for environmental projects will be eased, as will restrictions on funding such projects and shipping research equipment.
The accord is the result of many years of advocacy efforts by the Center for International Policy, The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), other research institutions and conservation nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and attorney/advocate Robert Muse.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that the Department of State concluded the agreement,” said Elizabeth Newhouse, Director of CIP’s Cuba Project. “Even if the next president does not share President Obama’s desire to go forward with normalized relations with Cuba, yesterday’s agreement puts bilateral environmental cooperation on a secure and lasting footing.”
“The agreement is a heartening instance of the U.S. government listening to NGOs, who spoke from a real desire to succeed in the important work they are doing in Cuba,” said Robert Muse. “The State Department is to be fulsomely commended for this.”
The effort by the coalition of advocacy groups began in December 2008 with a letter to then-President-elect Obama to ask that he make scientific exchanges with Cuba easier in order to confront shared, growing environmental threats. Changes in visa and licensing policies followed.
However, the process for carrying out environmental projects with Cuba remained daunting. In 2012, the coalition of non-governmental groups launched an initiative to urge the U.S. to execute a joint declaration with Cuba to facilitate the flow of scientific information and the development of projects to protect the environment. The group followed up with a detailed letter to President Obama in February 2013, making the case for an environmental-protection agreement with Cuba.
Signatories included, in addition to CIP, NYBG and Robert Muse, the CEOs of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Museum of Natural History, the Ocean Foundation, the Sea to Shore Alliance, the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, the Tinker Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the World Wildlife Fund. Dan Whittle of EDF and David Guggenheim, the founder of Ocean Doctor, contributed greatly to the initiative.