Press Release / Jan. 8, 2010

Campaign success: UNESCO suspends controversial prize

The UN body mandated to promote education, culture and science has announced a review of a controversial prize sponsored by the President of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea following lobbying by Global Witness, other non-governmental organisations, and some Member States.

Global Witness Director, Simon Taylor, welcomed the review but said member states "should make an effort to insist the prize is removed as it is a blatant abuse of UNESCO's name in the most cynical way".

Late last year Global Witness wrote an open letter to the UNESCO board urging them to cancel the US$300,000 a year prize without delay. In the letter, Taylor asserted that “the involvement of President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, ruler of one of the world’s most corrupt and venal dictatorships, debases the standing of UNESCO and of the award”.

The prize was to be awarded “in recognition of scientific achievements that improve the quality of human life”. Global Witness submitted a spoof nomination for President Obiang’s son for “improving the quality of his own life”.

According to media reports the decision to suspend the prize followed ‘bitter protests’ and lobbying against the award by Spain and France. Opposition to the prize had been growing because of its association with the Obiang regime.

/ Ends

Read the earlier press release

Contact: Amy Barry on 0207 4925858