11 June 2010.
UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences
Honorable Mr. Ban Ki-moon,
The UNCAC Civil Society Coalition, composed of almost 200 organizations committed to fighting corruption and promoting human rights worldwide, has learned of the intention of UNESCO to award a Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, sponsored by and named after Mr. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, based on funding from a source connected to President Obiang. We believe that the creation of this award and the resulting endorsement of Mr. Obiang are fundamentally contrary to the spirit and principles of the United Nations, as well as to UNESCO’s constitutional goals, and hereby express our firm opposition to the establishment of this Prize. President Obiang heads a country that has been ranked by Transparency International as among the 12 most corrupt in the world, whose government is known for well-documented brutality and whose citizens live in poverty despite the country’s oil riches. With assistance of civil society groups, law enforcement proceedings have been initiated in France and Spain to investigate alleged illicit enrichment and embezzlement of public funds by President Obiang and other senior Equatoguinean officials. In more than 30 years of government, Mr. Obiang has missed the opportunity to use oil revenues, and other sources of government income, to improve the life of the people in Equatorial Guinea or even to make transparent what those revenues are. By creating a UNESCO-Obiang award, UNESCO is effectively endorsing his regime and undermining its own support for human rights, including the right to education, to freedom of expression and to citizen’s access to information.
Today, while steps are being made by the international community to fight corruption and impunity, such as through adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the UNODC/ World Bank-launched Stolen Assets Recovery (StAR) initiative, this Prize would send a wrong message and endow positive publicity to an individual and a regime about which there are grave concerns on many counts.
Therefore, we respectfully call upon the United Nations and UNESCO to take the necessary steps to:
- Cancel the establishment and inaugural awarding of the UNESCO-Obiang Prize.
- Set up clear, transparent guidelines for the creation of awards by the UN and UN agencies, in order to guarantee that all awards and their funding sources are in full accord with UN essential values, international commitments and standards regarding the promotion of human rights, the Millennium Development Goals and the global fight against corruption.
We would be very grateful for your support on this matter and look forward to hearing from you.
The undersigned members of the UNCAC Coalition