EG Justice Needs Your Help. Sign the petition now to STOP the UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for the Life Sciences.
In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created the UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for the Life Sciences, named for and financed by the autocratic and abusive president of the oil-rich West African country of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
The prize is said to recognize “scientific achievements that improve the quality of human life.” Meanwhile, the quality of life in Equatorial Guinea today remains abysmal. In spite of having attained the highest GDP per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of Equatoguineans live on less than $1 a day in conditions comparable to Haiti or Chad. President Obiang has neglected to invest available resources in basic social services, resulting in declining primary school attendance, poor health indicators, and needless poverty.
The UNESCO Obiang Prize is a cynical ploy to co-opt the worthy name and reputation of UNESCO to enhance the image of a notorious dictatorship. The prize amounts to international approval for this kleptocratic and abusive regime and it undermines UNESCO’s mission to promote education, science, culture, and human rights.
You can help, by signing this petition to UNESCO!
Let’s send a message to UNESCO that corruption and abuse should not be rewarded and that funds used to create this prize should be reinvested in the people of Equatorial Guinea.
We the undersigned write to you with the hope that UNESCO will reconsider its decision to establish the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, and abolish this award named for and funded by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea.
If ever there was a moment for UNESCO to advance its mission and help to promote education for all and communication in Equatorial Guinea, this is that moment. Thirty years after Mr. Obiang declared himself President of Equatorial Guinea and fifteen years since the discovery of oil in our small nation, which today stands as Sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest oil producer with the consequent highest GDP per capita on the continent, the level of education in the country remains significantly below the standards achieved by countries in the region with considerably fewer resources at their disposal. According to a 2009 UNDP report, spending on education by Equatorial Guinea was the lowest of all countries listed during the period from 2000-2007.
Attendance at primary and secondary schools remains disturbingly low. Meanwhile, gross underfunding has led to the decrepit condition of Equatorial Guinea’s education infrastructure. Less than 60% of Equatoguinean pupils finish primary school, and the latest UNESCO “Education for All Global Monitoring Report” report cites that while a long time gender gap in education has lessened somewhat, it is due to an overall decline in enrollment from 1999-2007, as fewer boys are enrolling in school, rather than any progress affecting girls. The single and recently established university that exists in the country is a sham: it lacks basic materials, a library, qualified personnel, and academic independence. Students at all levels must do without books and basic educational resources essential for their advancement. Additionally, they complain of chronic teacher absenteeism because there is neither a sufficiently funded nor a coherent national education program.
National leaders who genuinely seek to advance research in the life sciences start by building education systems in their countries capable of producing future recipients of international awards. In contrast others, simply eager to have their public image polished, pretend to be global philanthropists by creating international awards that carry their names. We believe that the most perfunctory examination of President Obiang’s record on human rights, including education, would make it clear that he is cynically attempting to use UNESCO as a vehicle for such manipulation. This makes a mockery of the noble values of your organization.
Some of us are in exile today because the government of Teodoro Obiang Nguema unjustly persecuted, arbitrarily detained, threatened directly or indirectly, or denied us entry into Equatorial Guinea. Others remain in exile because of pending judgments against us, entered during our absence from Equatorial Guinea, for expressing our political views or denouncing the government’s human rights record. In short, under the current regime there are no freedoms of expression, association, or assembly in Equatorial Guinea. Nor does academic freedom exist in Equatorial Guinea. Those Equatoguinean scholars amongst us in exile believe the continued existence of this prize would be a grave dishonor to your organization.
We are aware of and applaud UNESCO’s decision to review all the international prizes that carry your organization’s name and seal. We believe that if UNESCO is to stay true to its mission and advance its commitment to education and human dignity for all, your review of the international prizes must lead to the abolition of the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo prize.
Alternatively, UNESCO could suggest to the so-called “Obiang Nguema Foundation for the Preservation of Life” that it dedicate the $3 million endowment to schools inside the country that sorely need funding for the purchase of books, benches, and other such rudimentary educational materials for their students. We believe that such an allocation would be a more appropriate use of funds that could be of tangible benefit to young learners in Equatorial Guinea, who, like students throughout much of Africa, struggle and yearn for decent educational opportunities.
We look forward to further communications and invite you to remain in contact with the undersigned via Tutu Alicante, executive director of EG Justice.
The STOP the UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for the Life Sciences petition to UNESCO Director-General was written by Kristina DeMain and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.