UNESCO to Award Prize Funded by Dictator Obiang
Freedom House strongly opposes the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s decision to award a controversial prize financed by one of the world’s longest-ruling dictators, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea.
“The decision by the UN’s primary educational and scientific organization to award a prize financed by the kleptocratic dictator of Equatorial Guinea, who has maintained a viselike grip over the citizenry for 33 years, is fundamentally at odds with UNESCO’s mandate,” said Courtney Radsch, senior program manager for the Global Freedom of Expression Campaign at Freedom House.
While UNESCO’s Executive Board has removed Mr. Obiang’s name from the award and renamed it the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, Freedom House believes this cosmetic change is not enough. The award still serves to burnish Obiang’s unsavory reputation and is funded by one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive regimes.
Human rights organizations and several democratic governments opposed the $3 million prize, first proposed in 2008, amid concerns that funding for the award came directly from the government of Equatorial Guinea. A number of notable public figures, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Congressman Howard Berman, publicly urged UNESCO to reject the prize, citing a record of corruption, abuse, and restricted press freedom that is well-documented by UN reports, government investigations and reports by non-governmental organizations.
Equatorial Guinea ranks as one of the “Worst of the Worst” countries in Freedom House’s annual survey, Freedom in the World, for its wretched human rights record and history of curtailing political rights and civil liberties.