Sign-on LetterMarch 1, 2012
Over 70 African and international civil society organizations and concerned individuals signed a letter to the UNESCO Executive Board calling for the cancellation of the UNESCO-Obiang Prize and stronger rules for future prizes.
Dear Members of the Executive Board:
We, the undersigned civil society organizations and concerned individuals, urge you to cancel the UNESCO Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences at the upcoming Executive Board meeting, February 27 – March 10.
We understand that President Obiang has proposed that the prize be renamed the “Equatorial Guinea-UNESCO Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.” Any such name change, however, fails to address fundamental issues with the prize; namely, concerns that it may be financed with funds illicitly derived from misuse of the country’s natural resource wealth and that it unjustifiably associates UNESCO’s name and mission with a government that, under President Obiang’s leadership, has contravened core human rights principles at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate.
Recent events underscore our concern. President Obiang and members of his family are the subjects of ongoing corruption investigations in France, Spain and the United States. On February 14, 2012, French authorities searched a Paris residence belonging to the Obiang family and seized two truckloads of luxury goods worth millions of dollars belonging to President Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, as part of an ongoing investigation into corruption and money laundering. This followed a September 28, 2011, raid in which French police seized 11 luxury cars from the same residence. In October 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed two claims to seize more than US$70 million in assets belonging to that same son. The complaints document numerous examples of alleged embezzlement, extortion, and misappropriation of public funds by Equatoguinean government officials for personal enrichment.
UNESCO’s mission encompasses "the eradication of poverty […] through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” It is deeply troubling that President Obiang and his family enjoy luxurious lifestyles that, according to these foreign investigations, are financed by corruption at the same time that most Equatoguineans live without reliable electricity, affordable healthcare, and quality education. Given this reality, and credible concerns about the source of the prize money, UNESCO should never have accepted the funds provided by President Obiang. Especially in view of recent developments, UNESCO must not make use of those funds unless it can first firmly and publicly establish that they are not the proceeds of corruption and, secondly, arrange for the funds to be spent to address urgent social needs inside Equatorial Guinea, with appropriate monitoring and safeguards.
In sum, we urge you to abolish the prize and to encourage President Obiang to use the $3 million endowment to instead improve the lives of Equatoguineans. We also feel it is essential that UNESCO put into place rules that prevent awards such as these from being considered in the future.
International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH
Carlos Cardoso, Ph.D.
Head Research Programme, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) (International)
Director, Center for Research and Development
Executive Director, Zimbabwe Exiles Forum
Professor Oumar Ndongo
General Secretary, West African Civil Society Forum
Executive Director, Friends of the Congo
Executive Director, Global Rights Alert
Chairperson, Publish What You Pay Uganda
Rev. David Ugolor
Executive Director, Africa Network for Economic and Environmental Justice
Country Director, IBIS West Africa
Executive Director, Concern for Development Initiatives in Africa
Coordinator, Publish What You Pay-Tanzania
Director, Co-operative for Research and Education
Maurice Ouma Odhiambo
Executive Director, Jamaa Resource Initiatives
Executive Director, Priority Africa Network
Editor in chief, Pambazuka News
Executive Director, Africa Institute for Energy Governance
Wong Kai Shing
Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Center
Campaign for Good Governance
Director, Church and Society Programme of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia
Community Education Computer Society
Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation
Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus
Prof. Chris Maina Peter
Chairperson of the Board, Zanzibar Legal Services Centre
Director, Association Sherpa
Executive Director, Environmental Defender Law Center
Johannesburg Refugee Network
Clement P. Mavungu
Legal Officer, Africa Programme of the International Commission of Justice
Chief Executive, Transparency International Ireland
Partner, Tjombe-Elago Law Firm Inc.
Vice President, Mozambican Human Rights League
El Dorado Park Women’s Forum
National Secretary, Zero Corruption Coalition Nigeria
Abu A. Brima
Executive Director, Network Movement for Justice and Development
Robert Ilunga Numbi
Executive Director, Les Amis de Nelson Mandela pour la Défense des Droits Humains
(Democratic Republic of Congo)
Gustavo Gallón Giraldo
Director, Comisión Colombiana de Juristas
Luísa Teotónio Pereira
Board Member, Centro de Intervenção para o Desenvolvimento Amílcar Cabral
Network Against Child Labour
Ka Hsaw Wa
Founder and Executive Director, EarthRights International
(Thailand and United States)
Comisión de Movimientos Sociales, Cristianos de Base de Madrid
Dr. Enenge A’bodjedi, M.D.
Miguel Eson Eman, D.N.I.
Humberto Riochi Bobuiche
Sociologist and Freelance
Abaga Edu Okue
Organized Crime Investigator
Postdoctoral Fellow in the Committee on Global Thought
Simon R. Doubleday, Ph.D.
Professor of History
Michael Ugarte, Ph. D.
Professor of Spanish Literature
University of Missouri
Antoon De Baets
University of Groningen
Professor, Comparative Literature, French & Italian, African Studies
Arlindo Manuel C. S. Caldeira
Irv Epstein, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of the Faculty
Professor of Educational Studies
Illinois Wesleyan University
Fernando Machado Silva, Ph.D.
Research Fellow, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Center of Philosophy, Universidade de Lisboa
Marvin W. Makinen
Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
The University of Chicago
Dr. Adam Lifshey
Dr. Angela Stuesse
University of South Florida
Agustín Velloso Santisteban, Ph.D.
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
Yolanda Aixelà Cabré
Spanish Council for Scientific Research
Dr. Daniel Bach
Research Director, Africa Division – Political Science
Université de Bordeaux
Federico Sanz Díaz
Professor of History
Universidad de Burgos
Francesc de Carreras
Professor of Constitutional Law
Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights
Dolores López Fernández
Coordinator, Centre d'Estudis Africans
Former ANC MP and anti-corruption author
Senior Partner, Dietel Partners
Dr. Araceli Mangas Martín
Professor of International Public Law
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Kobby Essien, Ph.D.
Scientific Computing Analyst
Jesús Crespo Redondo
Deidre Helen Crumbley, Ph.D.
Professor of African Studies
North Carolina State University
Mischa G. Hendel
Department of African Studies
Alicia Campos Serrano
Research Director, African Studies Group
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
International Program Director
Universidad de Monterrey
Ana Lúcia Sá
Researcher, Center for African Studies
ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
Dr. Julia Kozma, LL.M
Austrian Member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Researcher, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights
Virgínia Fons Renaudon
Tenured Professor of Anthropology
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
José Manuel Pedrosa Bartolomé
Professor of Literature
Universidad de Alcalá