President’s priority has always been to help promote research to cure African endemic diseases.
The government of Equatorial Guinea has expressed its appreciation to the Executive Board of UNESCO for its approval of the Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. The board voted to establish the prize on March 8 by a vote of 33 votes in favor, 18 against and 6 abstentions, far exceeding the simple majority needed for approval.
In an official statement issued today, the government said the award “has one great goal, which is to allocate $3 million to reward research specializing in diseases, particularly those affecting the African continent, and … contribute more resources to combating these illnesses, which still have not been sufficiently studied and affect millions of victims, any of them in Equatorial Guinea.”
It said, “The people of Equatorial Guinea are proud to be able to contribute with their current wealth to the development of studies on diseases that are also experienced by some of their inhabitants, and are looking forward to recovering the lost years of research to find, in the near future, results and new hope in the fight against these illnesses.”
Several non-governmental organizations had mounted a campaign to convince UNESCO to reject the funding and not establish the award. The vote followed a successful diplomatic campaign by Equatorial Guinea that won the support of African, Asian and Latin American countries.
“The people and the Government of Equatorial Guinea appreciate and respect the decision taken by the Executive Board of the UNESCO, as they would have also respected it if the result had been the opposite,” said the government statement. “At no time did they want to respond with equal force to the overwhelming campaign orchestrated against this award, in order not to pressure or influence the representatives of the countries that should make a democratic and free decision.”
Equatorial Guinea also thanked the countries that supported its position, noting that “Equatorial Guinea has a deep and sincere relationship with many states and regions, especially within the African continent, despite the attempts arising from other areas to spread a completely negative image of our country and our institutions.”
The award originally was to be named for Equatorial Guinea’s president, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who offered to remove his name from the prize in order to accommodate the views of other nations. The government stated that President Obiang’s “priority in offering this award has always been to help promote research,” not to memorialize himself.
After the long and laborious effort to win acceptance, the government also expressed its consternation over the campaign waged against the prize, saying that it “observed with perplexity and sadness the relentless campaign against the award which has been promoted, since its acceptance in 2008, by various entities located mainly in Western countries and not in the areas most affected by these diseases.”
The government lamented that “the controversy has especially affected the real beneficiaries of this award, who are the millions of people suffering from endemic diseases, especially in Africa, and who certainly do not care about these sophisticated diplomatic battles, but only about finding a solution to their illnesses. It will also benefit researchers and scientists who will have a significant help in advancing their work.”