UNESCO to Announce Fate of Obiang Prize

Posted March 8th, 2012 at 12:15 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is set to announce whether it will go forward with a controversial $3-million prize funded by Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The prize, for life science research, has been on hold for more than three years. Rights groups and Western nations say Mr. Obiang's dismal human-rights record makes him an unfit sponsor. They say the money would be better used to develop Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea has said the UNESCO prize is intended to promote scientific development and achievements that “improve the quality of human life.”

In an attempt to appease critics, Mr. Obiang has proposed taking his name off the award. Equatorial Guinea also recently informed UNESCO that the money came from the national treasury, not a private foundation in Mr. Obiang's name.

That latest development prompted a lawyer for UNESCO this week to suggest the organization scrap the prize, saying such discrepancies over the source of funding go against UNESCO regulations.

Equatorial Guinea is rich in natural resources, but most of its citizens live in abject poverty. The anti-corruption group Transparency International ranks Equatorial Guinea among the world's 12 most corrupt countries. Mr. Obiang has been in power since 1979.