Washington Babylon — January 6, 2009, 11:02 am

Pay-to-Play at UNESCO

Is there a slimier United Nations department then UNESCO? In 2006, UNESCO awarded Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov with a medal for preserving Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage. Human Rights Watch said that UNESCO’s decision to honor Karimov was “a bad joke,” “absolutely scandalous,” and “incomprehensible in the face of his government’s serious violations of human rights.” Those violations include the death of one prisoner who was tortured, among other ways by having boiling water poured over his body.

A few years before that, Angola named an international arms dealer, Pierre Falcone, as its ambassador to UNESCO, which allowed him to claim diplomatic immunity and avoid prosecution (until recently) in France.

Now I see that UNESCO has established the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, which is named for the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, who funded the award to the tune of $3 million. “The purpose of this Prize is to reward the projects and activities of an individual, individuals, institutions, other entities or non-governmental organizations for scientific research in the life sciences leading to improving the quality of human life.”

That’s ironic, to put it mildly, since Obiang is best known for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenues from his country’s treasury and crushing his political opponents. Meanwhile, his own people continue to live in misery, and the Obiang government spends virtually nothing on health care, education, or housing.

What’s next? The UNESCO-Saudi award for religious freedom? Or the UNESCO-North Korean medal for free and fair elections?

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
Return of the Strongman·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If Tunisia is where the Arab Spring began, Egypt seems poised to become its burial ground.”
Photograph (detail) © Ahmed Ismail / Getty Images
Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Article
Me, Myself, and Id·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The one defining trait of the narcissist is that it’s always someone else.
Painting (detail) by Gianni Dagli Orti
Post
The Many Faces of Boko·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“People want education. Open a school and they will rush.”
Photograph © The author

Average number of sitcom laughs an American hears during a prime-time season:

12,000

Czech and German deer still do not cross the Iron Curtain.

British economists correlated the happiness of a country’s population with its genetic resemblance to Danes.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today