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Cablegate: Both Concern and Indifference Greet Unesco's

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary. Meeting in Durban, South Africa in July,
UNESCO's World Heritage Committee addressed deteriorating
conservation efforts in the Galapagos National Park and
Marine Reserve. Regretting the lack of attention given to
the Galapagos by the GOE, the Committee called for United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) and the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to evaluate the Park and
Marine Reserve for inclusion on the list of World Heritage
sites in danger. While the GOE appeared genuinely concerned
that UNESCO was considering identifying the Galapagos as "in
danger," indifference marked the response of islanders and
members of the tourism, fishing, and scientific sectors.
End summary.

UNESCO Takes GOE to Task

2. Reflecting UNESCO's growing concern regarding the
environmental stability of the Galapagos, the World Heritage
Committee addressed the status of the Galapagos Islands
Heritage Site during its 29th session held July 11-17, in
Durban, South Africa. The review of the Galapagos at the
meeting followed an April 2005 visit to the Galapagos by the
Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Center, who at that time
decided to recommend a technical assessment (reftel). The
main Committee decision in Durban was to send a joint
mission of UNESCO and IUCN to examine the state of
conservation in the Galapagos and to advise whether
conditions in the Galapagos warrant their inclusion on the
List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee had strong
language for the GOE, formally noting its regret that the
GOE had not submitted a report due February 1, 2005 that had
been requested by the Committee at its 28th session last
year. This report, which was to outline the GOE's plan to
manage migration to and illegal fishing in the islands, has
now been tagged with a February 1, 2006 deadline.

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GOE Concerned - But Not the Islanders

3. In a meeting with econoff, Vice Minister of Environment
Alfredo Carrasco appeared genuinely concerned about the
outcome of the Durban meetings. While he acknowledged that
marine conservation was lacking in some areas, he expressed
frustration that UNESCO did not focus on the success that
has been achieved in terrestrial conservation, noting that
the GOE would be more amenable to supporting a joint
UNESCO/IUCN review of the site if it were to include a
terrestrial review as well. In a Galapagos Donors meeting
chaired by Minister of Environment Anita Alban, the GOE re-
emphasized their concern regarding the Galapagos, noting
their commitment to conserving the Galapagos. To show its
commitment, the GOE pledged to complete the required report
ahead of schedule, with a tentative date set for October

4. However, in econoff's July 23-28 meetings with fishing
cooperatives, women's groups, Park officials, scientists,
non-governmental organizations, and tourism sector
officials, no one mentioned the UNESCO decision as an issue
of concern. When econoff raised the issue, the tenor of
their responses ranged from indifference to inquiries about
what government officials in Quito were doing about the


5. The contrast between GOE concern and local indifference
helps to illustrate the Galapagos conservation conundrum.
For the GOE, UNESCO's decision to press forward with the "in
danger" issue is considered a sanction or black mark within
the international community and a claim that the GOE lacks
the responsibility to conserve the Galapagos, hence the
GOE's concern. Meanwhile, the islanders simply want to go
about their business without caring much about how they are
viewed by the world at large. The strong reaction from
UNESCO will help focus GOE attention on the Galapagos.
However, much more will be needed beyond this reprimand to
fully address the variety of competing interests and the
lack of government leadership if we are to preserve this
World Heritage site.


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