UNESCO Set to Present Award Funded by African Dictator
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Teodoro Obiang with President Barack Obama (photo: Lawrence Jackson, White House)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plans today to award a controversial prize funded by African dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea.
The UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences has been the source of much controversy since Obiang put up $3 million to establish the award. UNESCO had originally planned to name it after Obiang, until human rights organizations objected vehemently to the idea.
Even without Obiang’s name attached, Human Rights Watch and other groups blasted UNESCO for accepting the money from the dictator who has ruled Equatorial Guinea for 33 years.
“It is shameful and utterly irresponsible for UNESCO to award this prize, given the litany of serious legal and ethical problems surrounding it,” said Tutu Alicante, director of the human rights group EG Justice. “Beyond letting itself be used to polish the sullied image of Obiang, UNESCO also risks ruining its own credibility.”
Human Rights Watch says “serious allegations of corruption and money-laundering on a grand scale by the president or his family and close associates are now being examined by multiple judicial bodies internationally.” These accusations raise the question of where the $3 million for the prize came from, according to the group.
They also noted how inappropriate it is for a prize with a stated goal of “contributing to improving the quality of human life” can be supported by a leader whose government has committed human rights abuses and left its people languishing in poverty for decades.
Obiang has avoided condemnation in the United States by hiring public relations firms and lobbyists, a tactic that has earned him smiling photos with such luminaries as Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama.
The first UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences will go to three experts in disease-related research, Dr. Maged Al-Sherbiny from Egypt, Dr. Felix Dapare Dakora from South Africa and Dr. Rossana Arroyo of Mexico.
To Learn More:
Equatorial Guinea: UNESCO’s Shameful Award (Human Rights Watch)
U.S. Halts Payments to UNESCO over Palestine Vote (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Dictator of the Month: Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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