Freedom House Urges UNESCO to Reject Renamed Obiang Prize
Freedom House remains strongly opposed to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s bid to reconsider the life sciences prize associated with Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, because of his government’s human rights abuses, and calls on the UNESCO Executive Board to permanently remove the prize from consideration. UNESCO’s Executive Board recently approved a plan that would reinstate the prize, but exclude any reference to Obiang. Freedom House believes that this cosmetic change is not enough, as the prize would still be tainted by its association with one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt regimes.
Freedom House listed Equatorial Guinea as one of the “Worst of the Worst” countries in 2011 for its abysmal record of civil liberties and political rights. The $3 million prize originally bearing Mr. Obiang’s name was proposed in 2008, and then indefinitely suspended by UNESCO in October 2010 after an unprecedented global outcry seeking its cancellation. A number of notable public figures, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Congressman Howard Berman publicly urged UNESCO to reject the Obiang Prize. They cited a record of corruption, abuse, and restricted press freedom under President Obiang that is well documented, including by UN reports and foreign government investigations.