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UNESCO for Sale

COLUMBUS, OHIO – In a better world, my nieces and nephews in Equatorial Guinea would respect our country’s president for overseeing the careful management of revenues pouring in from oil, and for using these funds for development. In a better world, my nieces and nephews would honor the United Nations’ main cultural institution, UNESCO, for insisting on improving the education and health of Africa’s children.

But in the world as we know it, relatively few people love and respect President Teodoro Obiang. His biggest fans might include the high-living members of his family, along with selected business executives in the United States and Europe, where he spends quite a bit of his money. Or certain members of the UN Human Rights Council: during a session in March, some states had the gall to congratulate Equatorial Guinea for its “unequivocal commitment” to human rights.

Board members of UNESCO also seem to love and respect Obiang. They have accepted $3 million from him for a prize named in his honor. The prize is supposed to recognize the work of individuals and institutions, including non-governmental organizations, for scientific research in the life sciences that improves the quality of human life. Perhaps the recipients will love Obiang, too.

It is easy to see where Obiang – who seized power in Equatorial Guinea after killing his predecessor – gets the money that he tosses around. Since the mid-1990’s, Equatorial Guinea has become a large oil exporter.