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Shameful UN need reprimanding by the coalition

297676513_a3210819d6International development invariably raises some complex issues but periodically we come across an example of the international community acting in a totally indefensible manner. No shades of grey here- this is morally and politically abhorrent. I am referring to the United Nation’s decision to continue with a controversial prize established in “honour” of Equatorial Guinea’s notorious dictator Obiang Nguema.  If the government wants to get serious about development it must be seen to be outspoken and forthright about such travesties.  Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats must not shirk their responsibility to make their voices heard on issues like these across all departments during this coalition.

The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences is supposed to be awarded “for scientific research in the life sciences leading to improving the quality of human life.”

The “quality of human life” under Obiang’s regime is a disgrace. According to the World Bank, GDP per capita is $28,103 (richer than Israel), but 77 per cent of the population still live below the poverty line. Part of the problem is that all funds received from the country’s extensive oil reserves pass through Obiang’s personal bank account to prevent “misallocation of funds”. Naturally he has invested wisely for the benefit of the people:  Global Witness report that his son purchased a $15,000,000 Californian mansion in 2006 and that the family owns three Bugatti Veyron cars (each retailing for over $1 million each) along with a healthy compliment of Ferraris, Maseratis, a Rolls or two and the obligatory presidential jet. Not a single free and fair election has taken place since he assumed power in 1979 (Africa’s second longest serving living dictator) and one in three Equato-Guineans  die before their 40th birthday. Corruption, human rights abuses and systemic torture by government officials are reported as being routine practice.

But none of this need concern the UNESCO bureaucrats in Paris who will take half of the dictator’s $3 million donation for “administrative fees” to help them identify worthy winners of this prize. It is perversely ironic that the United Nations, which claims to be in pursuit of  a “better world”, should explicitly endorse, and be in the pocket of, one of Africa’s most repressive and corrupt dictators. The Equato-Guineans suffering daily are unlikely to appreciate the irony.

The UK carries a lot of weight in the international development community and, while Andrew Mitchell controls the development portfolio, this is an issue that should transcends briefs and party divisions. Michael Moore and Norman Lamb  are among those on the Lib Dem benches who have been honourably outspoken about the scourge of corruption upon development before. It’s time for their voices to be heard again. Removing one prize fund won’t change the world overnight- but not doing so sends a terrible message to some of the world’s worst abusers of power.

4 Responses to “Shameful UN need reprimanding by the coalition”

  1. Jack Hughes Says:

    The DFID needs to be closed down – this will save some £7bn this year and next year and every year.


  2. GF Says:


  3. MMW Says:

    Holy crap! This is indeed shocking. What is the best way to protest this?


  4. Motorcycle guy Says:

    If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little