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Views from the Center

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UNESCO’s Dictator Prize Put on Hold

This is a joint posting with Julia Barmeier.

Today, UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, announced that the UNESCO-Obiang Prize would be suspended so that UNESCO’s executive board can study the situation. The Board will take up the issue again in October. Ms. Bokova released a statement saying:

“I have heard the voices of the many intellectuals, scientists, journalists and of course governments and parliamentarians who have appealed to me to protect and preserve the prestige of the organization. I have come to you with a strong message of alarm and anxiety. I am fully aware that the Executive Board made a decision two years ago (to establish the prize), but I believe that given the changing circumstances and the unprecedented developments of the past months, we must be courageous and recognize our responsibilities for it is our organization that is at stake. Therefore I will not set a date for awarding the UNESCO-Obiang Prize for the Life Sciences.”

Unlocking $7.5 Billion for the World's Poorest Countries

According to the World Bank, the global economic crisis may force donor governments to slash their aid budgets by up to 25 percent. If true, that would translate into a draconian cut of $30 billion. Red ink as far as the eye can see, long unemployment lines, and continued uneasiness in Europe could force donors to unsheathe the budget axe. Even if the World Bank is wrong, the years of historic aid increases are long gone. This couldn’t come at a worse time for developing countries and multilateral aid agencies.

Mo Governance in Africa? Not This Year (Again).

Is African governance getting better? The Mo Ibrahim Foundation seems to be having a tough time finding winners for its prize for retiring African presidents. The prize, designed to strengthen incentives for African leaders to relinquish office when their terms end, consists of US$5million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter. After giving the award to Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano in 2007 and Botswana’s Festus Mogae in 2008, they decided no one deserved it last year.

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.

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