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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is currently rethinking its highly criticised decision to allow Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, to endow the Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. Tutu Alicante voices the international community’s concern over this decision, and calls for action to stop the proceedings.

Following urgent meetings held in Paris last week in which numerous United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) countries consulted about Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s endowment of the Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, Director-General Irina Bokova has decided to raise the issue on 15 June at an ‘informational meeting’ of the executive board. The meeting provides a crucial opportunity to block this shameful prize. If states maintain silence, however, we have been told that UNESCO will proceed to schedule the award ceremony in the coming weeks. Bokova feels that without a clear mandate from her executive board she cannot act to halt the prize.[1]

Please help us to influence the governments of Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of Tanzania, Djibouti, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all of which sit on the Executive Board of UNESCO, to encourage it to take a clear stand against the prize by 15 June.

A few ideas of possible actions that could make a difference are:

Reach out to journalists, either individually or by issuing a press statement circulated broadly, to encourage them to run stories about this issue and to seek on-the-record comments from government officials about the controversy and the government’s stance.

If you have strong contacts in the government, please call your foreign ministry and speak to the office that is responsible for human rights or international organisations. Tell them about this scandalous prize and ask them to instruct the government’s permanent delegate to UNESCO to take action to oppose it on or before June 15.


* Tutu Alicante is executive director of EG Justice and can be contacted at [email][email protected].
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


[1] See, for example, Ken Silverstein’s report for