In the first volume of Science & Diplomacy, I contributed a perspective1 on how the ever-increasing challenges to the biodiversity shared by Cuba and the United States provide opportunity and need for these nations to take an enhanced collaborative, bilateral approach to addressing shared issues. Shared environmental problems include natural disasters, such as hurricanes; human-made disasters, such as oil and natural gas leaks; destruction of fragile marine and coastal habitats; threats to thousands of species that migrate between Cuba and the United States; and species that are invasive, endangered, or disease vectors.
During the past decade, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the United States have successfully collaborated with Cuban scientists despite the U.S. trade embargo toward Cuba and other regulations. In January 2011, the Obama administration announced new rules that eased some restrictions on U.S. citizens’ travel and remittances to Cuba, which collaterally encouraged more bilateral environmental collaboration. The stage was set for a new golden era in Cuba-U.S. scientific diplomacy.2 In June 2017, cold water was thrown on this euphoric period with the Trump administration’s issuance of a new policy with respect to Cuba. Despite the new restrictions on travel, remittances, etc., science diplomacy carried on and thrived in multiple ways.3 In June 2022, the Biden administration issued limited relaxations to the Trump-era rules on Cuba, but it is premature to know how implementation of these rules will impact science diplomacy.
Over the next decade, while administrations are bound to change and, therefore, policy toward Cuba will change as well, scientists and NGOs can continue to build upon and expand their relationships with Cuban colleagues in areas of shared environmental concern, as evolving regulations allow. Moreover, science diplomacy can be advanced within the framework of international organizations in which both Cuban and U.S. scientists and institutions have membership. For example, Botanic Gardens Conservation International currently counts as members a dozen botanic gardens in Cuba and more than a thousand botanic gardens in the United States. Such third-party umbrella professional groups can provide ever-more-promising bridges to science diplomacy for shared Cuban and U.S. biodiversity concerns.
- Brian M. Boom, “Biodiversity without Borders: Advancing U.S.-Cuba Cooperation through Environmental Research,” Science & Diplomacy, Vol. 1, No. 3, August 14, 2012, http://www.sciencediplomacy.org/article/2012/biodiversity-without-borders
- Edward W. Lempinen, “Oceans, Weather, Health—U.S. Researchers Explore Potential Collaboration with Cuban Colleagues,” AAAS, May 1, 2012, https://www.aaas.org/news/oceans-weather-health-us-researchers-explore-p...
- Michaela Jarvis, “U.S.-Cuba Scientific Collaboration Advances,” AAAS, September 29, 2017, https://www.aaas.org/news/us-cuba-scientific-collaboration-advances