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UNESCO's Board Must Vote ‘No’ to Obiang Prize at Tuesday’s Board Meeting

This is a joint post with Julia Barmeier.

Tuesday, June 15 marks the last day that the board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) can object to the UNESCO-Obiang International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, which is made possible by a $3 million grant given to UNESCO by Equatorial Guinea’s dictator of 31 years—Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. As we blogged earlier, UNESCO gets to keep half of the money as a finder’s fee for identifying the winner. If the award ceremony does go forward, Obiang plans to attend, along with UNESCO's director-general, Irina Bokova.

SERGIO and the Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century

This is a joint post with Lauren Young.

A dashing Brazilian man who keeps a flakjacket in his midtown Manhattan office, two firefighters from New York and Miami, a terrorist attack, and an attempted rescue using nothing but a string and a ladies handbag. Would you believe that this is a film about the United Nations? Sergio, which premiered on HBO this month, is the story of Sergio Vieira de Mello, an extraordinary public servant who died in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq. The film (based on the book by Pulitzer-prize winning author Samantha Power) is a tribute to his leadership and service in the world’s worst troublespots.

Sergio Vieira de Mello began his career with the United Nations in Bangladesh, at the age of 23, and continued to mediate conflicts for the next three decades in countries such as Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Mozambique, and Lebanon.

UNESCO’s Decision to Accept Money from One of Africa’s Worst Dictators is Outrageous

This posting is joint with Julia Barmeier

According to its website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has stopped accepting nominations for its UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. But we are guessing that the applicant pool remains quite small. Frankly, who would want his or her name affiliated with one of Africa’s worst dictators? Besides UNESCO, that is.

The UN Goes to Hollywood—But Is It Ready for a Close-Up?

This is a joint post with Lauren Young.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been getting negative press about the relief efforts after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Perhaps worst is a scathing report from Refugees International accusing the UN of ineffectual leadership, missing coordination, and weak communication while an estimated 1.2 million Haitians remain displaced. Though much of the report consists of standard blandishments (the authors spent just 10 days in-country), there is indeed evidence of serious negligence. To give just one example: the organization initially planned on allowing itself two and a half months—well into the rainy season—to distribute plastic sheeting to protect the displaced. It took a personal intervention from a senior official to get this activity moved up.

Wanted Now: A Pragmatic and Visionary Leader for the Improved UN Entity for Women

This is a joint post with Geeta Rao Gupta.

In all of last week’s hoopla in NYC with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Clinton Global Initiative in full swing, news about an improved, composite U.N. entity for women (still to be formally named) went under the radar. The idea for consolidating several U.N. agencies into one has been in the works for about three years, but was finally adopted just two weeks ago. The resolution merely approves the creation of the entity and states that the Secretary General should announce the final plan for the structure and mission of the agency at next year’s UNGA. Now that’s classic UN style—to take one entire year to figure out what has already been figured out! It’s time for urgent and quick next steps, which if implemented smartly (not just politically) can make all the difference.

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