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Other U.S. Policy Statements

Statement on the Obiang International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences

Delivered by Mr. Stephen C. Engelken, Chargé d'Affaires, a.i.,
at UNESCO Information Meeting with the Director-General
15 June 2010

Madame Director-General,

We are grateful that you raised the issue of the Obiang International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.  The United States appreciates the actions you have taken to date regarding this issue.  Our delegation believes this situation is a problem that must be addressed.  The damage being done to UNESCO's reputation is serious.  Numerous human rights organizations, the international scientific community, former UNESCO Prize recipients, and Members of the United States Congress are calling the credibility of UNESCO into question.  As you know, U.S. Senator Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Sub-Committee responsible for appropriating money to the State Department for UNESCO wrote to you in protest. Media freedom groups are united in their concern that UNESCO’s association with the Obiang Prize will undermine its ability to promote freedom of expression.  These groups are usually supporters of UNESCO.  There is a real risk that this organization could find itself friendless.

Fellow Ambassadors, this is a problem we can solve through dialogue and mutual cooperation in the best tradition of this house.  I assure you that we will approach the discussion in a spirit of mutual respect.  We all remain committed to the goal of building scientific capacity in Africa. We welcome the Director-General’s efforts to resolve this matter in a way that is agreeable to all and we are prepared to participate in any informal discussions between member states with a view to resolving this situation. 

 Thank you.