The Center for International Policy, a Washington D.C. think tank, has welcomed the agreement between the United States and Cuba on Nov. 24 to increase the two countries’ cooperation on shared environmental issues. The agreement streamlines procedures to make it easier for U.S. and Cuban scientists to work toward the biological resources of both countries. For U.S. scientists, travel to Cuba to work on environmental projects will be eased, as will existing restrictions on funding such projects and shipping research equipment from the United States to Cuba.
In a press release, the Center for International Policy said: “This accord is the result of years of advocacy efforts by the Center for International Policy, the New York Botanical Garden and other research and conservation institutions and non-governmental organizations, as well as attorney/advocate Robert Muse.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased that the Department of State concluded the agreement,” said Elizabeth Newhouse, Director of the Center for International Policy’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.”
Robert Muse said “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. The State Department is to be fulsomely commended for this.”
The 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 in cooperation with Cuban institutions remained daunting. In 2012 non-governmental groups jointly urged the U.S. government to execute a declaration with Cuba to facilitate the flow of scientific information and the development of projects to protect the environment. The coalition of groups sent a detailed letter to President Obama in February 2013, making the case for an environmental protection agreement with Cuba.
“Signatories included, in addition to the Center for International Policy, the New York Botanical Garden and Robert Muse, the CEO’s of the Environmental Defense Fund, 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 the Environmental Defense Fund and David Guggenheim, founder of Ocean Doctor, contributed greatly to the initiative.”
Photo: Florida and Cuba aerial photograph. Eco Cuba Network.