UNESCO: End Alliance with Corrupt Dictator

UNESCO: End Alliance with Corrupt Dictator

Human Rights Watch | May 9, 2010
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In a joint letter to UNESCO, human rights and other civil society groups call for a full investigation into the source of the money used to fund The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to award the prize named after and funded by the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, despite pleas from hundreds of outraged individuals and organizations around the world.

"The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to award a life sciences prize named after and funded by the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, despite pleas from hundreds of outraged individuals and organizations around the world. Human rights and other civil society groups today called for a full investigation into the source of the money in a joint letter to UNESCO.

"UNESCO is allowing itself to be used to burnish the unsavory reputation of a cruel and corrupt despot," said Tutu Alicante of the human rights organization EG Justice. "The prize's US$3 million endowment should be used for the education and welfare of the people of Equatorial Guinea, rather than the glorification of their president."

UNESCO failed to pull the prize or investigate its funding despite receiving several previous communications from human rights groups, scholars and others. When pressed, it provided conflicting information about the prize's status. In January, UNESCO's spokesperson stated publicly that the organization would carry out a review of UNESCO prizes and that the Obiang prize would remain on hold pending this review. Later, UNESCO sources indicated the delay was due to a lack of nominations..."

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