This particular Wikileaks Cablegate cable is of interest mostly for its humour value—”Volcanoes regularly go off and shark attacks are common”, it says about Vanuatu; one really has to wonder about quality control at the US State Department if this is the sort of stuff they are collecting as ‘intelligence’.
It’s an example of the sort of information-gathering from public sources that foreign diplomatic posts undertake routinely. In this case, this unclassified 2006 cable out of the US Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, collates descriptions of Pacific Island countries, leaders and the political and economic climate as reported in New Zealand newspapers. The section about Vanuatu is extracted below; for the full descriptions of other Pacific island nations, visit this link at Wikileaks.
Key quote from the cable:
A bewildering array of political wannabes—the deeply suspicious Barak Sope, francophone Se[r]ge Vohor and Maxime Carlot Korm[a]n—swap among themselves as president and prime minister. With high unemployment, a growing squatter population around Port Vila is seen as a long-term security threat. Occasional riots and disturbances break out in Vila. GOVERNMENT: Completely unstable and corrupt.
For a country like Vanuatu that prides itself on its policy of supporting our numerous cultures, languages and traditions, this 2005 cable is significant because it shows the USA attempting to use its political and diplomatic might to quash support from small nations, including Vanuatu, for an international convention established specifically to protect this cultural diversity.
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was conceived to protect national cultural policy from free trade agreements like the WTO/GATS or bilateral trade negotiations, and the US opposed it because they believed that it would hinder free trade (in other words, serve as a hindrance to US economic interests in cultural industries such as motion pictures and music).
Fortunately, US opposition to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions did not prevent it from being adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in October 2005.
Key quote from this cable:
If we are to slow down the convention it will take pressure at the highest levels in Washington and around the world to convince governments that they are supporting a non-democratic piece of international law that has been cloaked in the language of culture.
This is the first of a new series—Cablegate Vanuatu—that we will be publishing here on Vanuatu Daily Digest. The Cablegate leak, a.k.a. the United States diplomatic cables leak, began in February 2010 when WikiLeaks—a non-profit organization that publishes submissions from anonymous whistleblowers—began releasing 251,287 classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world. Dated between December 1966 and February 2010, the cables contain diplomatic analysis from world leaders, and the diplomats’ assessment of host countries and their officials. As a service to the Vanuatu public, we will publish selected cables of interest about Vanuatu and its leaders.
Key quote from this cable:
the personalized nature of the deal raises questions about whether the new Taiwan-Vanuatu relationship is sustainable. Even if Vohor succeeds in bringing his cabinet around, it is far from certain whether Vanuatu will switch back to Beijing once more after he leaves the political arena. Equally unclear is whether Taiwan’s own legislature will be willing to underwrite once again Taiwan’s dollar diplomacy, especially if it turns out that money is going into Vohor’s personal bank account rather than legitimate development projects.