Sign-on Letter

Sign-on Letter

March 1, 2012
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Over 70 African and international civil society organizations and concerned individuals signed a letter to the UNESCO Executive Board calling for the cancellation of the UNESCO-Obiang Prize and stronger rules for future prizes. 

Dear Members of the Executive Board:

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and concerned individuals, urge you to cancel the UNESCO Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences at the upcoming Executive Board meeting, February 27 – March 10.

We understand that President Obiang has proposed that the prize be renamed the “Equatorial Guinea-UNESCO Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.” Any such name change, however, fails to address fundamental issues with the prize; namely, concerns that it may be financed with funds illicitly derived from misuse of the country’s natural resource wealth and that it unjustifiably associates UNESCO’s name and mission with a government that, under President Obiang’s leadership, has contravened core human rights principles at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate.

Recent events underscore our concern. President Obiang and members of his family are the subjects of ongoing corruption investigations in France, Spain and the United States. On February 14, 2012, French authorities searched a Paris residence belonging to the Obiang family and seized two truckloads of luxury goods worth millions of dollars belonging to President Obiang’s son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, as part of an ongoing investigation into corruption and money laundering. This followed a September 28, 2011, raid in which French police seized 11 luxury cars from the same residence. In October 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed two claims to seize more than US$70 million in assets belonging to that same son. The complaints document numerous examples of alleged embezzlement, extortion, and misappropriation of public funds by Equatoguinean government officials for personal enrichment.

UNESCO’s mission encompasses "the eradication of poverty […] through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” It is deeply troubling that President Obiang and his family enjoy luxurious lifestyles that, according to these foreign investigations, are financed by corruption at the same time that most Equatoguineans live without reliable electricity, affordable healthcare, and quality education. Given this reality, and credible concerns about the source of the prize money, UNESCO should never have accepted the funds provided by President Obiang. Especially in view of recent developments, UNESCO must not make use of those funds unless it can first firmly and publicly establish that they are not the proceeds of corruption and, secondly, arrange for the funds to be spent to address urgent social needs inside Equatorial Guinea, with appropriate monitoring and safeguards.

In sum, we urge you to abolish the prize and to encourage President Obiang to use the $3 million endowment to instead improve the lives of Equatoguineans. We also feel it is essential that UNESCO put into place rules that prevent awards such as these from being considered in the future.

Yours sincerely,

International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH



Carlos Cardoso, Ph.D.

Head Research Programme, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) (International)


Farai Maguwu

Director, Center for Research and Development




Gabriel Shumba

Executive Director, Zimbabwe Exiles Forum

(South Africa)


Professor Oumar Ndongo

General Secretary, West African Civil Society Forum



Maurice Carney

Executive Director, Friends of the Congo

(United States)


Winfred Ngabiirwe

Executive Director, Global Rights Alert

Chairperson, Publish What You Pay Uganda



Rev. David Ugolor

Executive Director, Africa Network for Economic and Environmental Justice



Chals Wotenwe

Country Director, IBIS West Africa



Bubelwa Kaiza

Executive Director, Concern for Development Initiatives in Africa

Coordinator, Publish What You Pay-Tanzania



Phiroshaw Camay

Director, Co-operative for Research and Education

(South Africa)


Maurice Ouma Odhiambo

Executive Director, Jamaa Resource Initiatives



Nunu Kidane

Executive Director, Priority Africa Network

(United States)


Firoze Manji

Editor in chief, Pambazuka News



Dickens Kamugisha

Executive Director, Africa Institute for Energy Governance



Wong Kai Shing

Executive Director, Asian Legal Resource Center

(Hong Kong)


Valnora Edwin

Campaign for Good Governance

(Sierra Leone)


Moses Mkandawire

Director, Church and Society Programme of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia



Community Education Computer Society

(South Africa)


Undule Mwakasungula

Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation



Emira Woods

Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus

(United States)


Prof. Chris Maina Peter

Chairperson of the Board, Zanzibar Legal Services Centre



Maud Perdriel-Vaissiere

Director, Association Sherpa



Lewis Gordon

Executive Director, Environmental Defender Law Center

(United States)


Johannesburg Refugee Network

(South Africa)


Clement P. Mavungu

Legal Officer, Africa Programme of the International Commission of Justice



John Devitt

Chief Executive, Transparency International Ireland



Norman Tjombe

Partner, Tjombe-Elago Law Firm Inc.



Amilcar Andela

Vice President, Mozambican Human Rights League



El Dorado Park Women’s Forum

(South Africa)


Babatunde Oluajo

National Secretary, Zero Corruption Coalition Nigeria



Abu A. Brima

Executive Director, Network Movement for Justice and Development

(Sierra Leone)


Robert Ilunga Numbi

Executive Director, Les Amis de Nelson Mandela pour la Défense des Droits Humains

(Democratic Republic of Congo)


Gustavo Gallón Giraldo

Director, Comisión Colombiana de Juristas



Luísa Teotónio Pereira

Board Member, Centro de Intervenção para o Desenvolvimento Amílcar Cabral



Network Against Child Labour

(South Africa)


Ka Hsaw Wa

Founder and Executive Director, EarthRights International

(Thailand and United States)


Hugo Castelli

Comisión de Movimientos Sociales, Cristianos de Base de Madrid



Egghead Odewale




Dr. Enenge A’bodjedi, M.D.


(Equatorial Guinea)


Miguel Eson Eman, D.N.I.

Political Asylee

(Equatorial Guinea)


Humberto Riochi Bobuiche

Sociologist and Freelance

(Equatorial Guinea)


Abaga Edu Okue

Organized Crime Investigator

(Equatorial Guinea)


Hannah Appel

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Committee on Global Thought

Columbia University

(United States)


Simon R. Doubleday, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Hofstra University

(United States)


Michael Ugarte, Ph. D.

Professor of Spanish Literature

University of Missouri

(United States)


Antoon De Baets


University of Groningen

(The Netherlands)


Eileen Julien

Professor, Comparative Literature, French & Italian, African Studies

Indiana University

(United States)


Arlindo Manuel C. S. Caldeira




Irv Epstein, Ph.D.

Associate Dean of the Faculty

Professor of Educational Studies

Illinois Wesleyan University

(United States)


Fernando Machado Silva, Ph.D.

Research Fellow, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Center of Philosophy, Universidade de Lisboa



Juanita Olaya




Marvin W. Makinen

Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics

The University of Chicago

(United States)


Dr. Adam Lifshey

Associate Professor

Georgetown University

(United States)


Dr. Angela Stuesse

Assistant Professor

University of South Florida

(United States)


Agustín Velloso Santisteban, Ph.D.


Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia



Yolanda Aixelà Cabré

Tenured Scientist

Spanish Council for Scientific Research



Dr. Daniel Bach

Research Director, Africa Division – Political Science

Université de Bordeaux



Federico Sanz Díaz

Professor of History

Universidad de Burgos



Francesc de Carreras

Professor of Constitutional Law

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona



Christine Sommer


Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights



Dolores López Fernández

Coordinator, Centre d'Estudis Africans



Xavier Montanyà




Andrew Feinstein

Former ANC MP and anti-corruption author

(United Kingdom)


Elizabeth Dietel

Senior Partner, Dietel Partners

(United States)


Dr. Araceli Mangas Martín

Professor of International Public Law

Universidad Complutense de Madrid



Kobby Essien, Ph.D.

Scientific Computing Analyst

(United States)


Jesús Crespo Redondo




Deidre Helen Crumbley, Ph.D.

Professor of African Studies

North Carolina State University

(United States)


Mischa G. Hendel

Department of African Studies

Universitaet Wien



Alicia Campos Serrano

Research Director, African Studies Group

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid



Thomas Buntru

International Program Director

Universidad de Monterrey



Ana Lúcia Sá

Researcher, Center for African Studies

ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa



Dr. Julia Kozma, LL.M

Austrian Member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture

Researcher, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights



Virgínia Fons Renaudon

Tenured Professor of Anthropology

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona



José Manuel Pedrosa Bartolomé

Professor of Literature

Universidad de Alcalá


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