05.12.2010 0

Worthless Prizes

By Adam Bitely –

Of late, the global prizes that are handed out with much fanfare have lost any real meaningful value. From the once prestigious Nobel Prize, to the recently announced UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, international prizes have proven to be somewhat of an indicator of the best of the worst. The latter prize, sponsored by the widely controversial President of the African Nation of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has caused many to raise an eyebrow.

Obiang and UNESCO have partnered to award a prize for achievement in the life sciences sector. Obiang has contributed $3 million dollars of his own cash to fund the prize.

According to Reuters:

“The grim irony of awarding a prize recognizing ‘scientific achievements that improve the quality of human life’, while naming it for a president whose 30-year rule has been marked by the brutal poverty and fear of his people and a global reputation for governmental corruption, would bring shame on UNESCO,” 30 groups said in a statement sent to UNESCO.

At least people are calling out the United Nations prize for what it is–worthless.

In a recent Economist article, the following wise analysis was offered in response to the worthless UNESCO prize:

All shall have prizes

The World Food Programme, for starters, should ask Zimbabwe’s president for funds to establish a Robert Mugabe award for agricultural productivity. Next, the UN refugee agency could squeeze a few million dollars from Myanmar’s junta for a Than Shwe prize for promoting the rights of women prisoners. The World Health Organisation could surely seduce Italy’s prime minister into providing some cash for a Silvio Berlusconi medal in sex education. The International Atomic Energy Agency might tap Iran for a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prize for the peaceful sponsorship of nuclear power.

The only thing wrong with this proposal is that nobody thought of it earlier. Saddam Hussein could have endowed a prize celebrating multiculturalism. Idi Amin, Uganda’s great showman president, might have set up an award for innovative culinary science. Many American conservatives are suspicious of the UN; they might feel differently had the former vice-president’s friends endowed a Dick Cheney transparency-in-government prize. Perhaps UNESCO could next promote sartorial elegance with a Kim Jong Il gong for best-dressed dictator or launch a campaign for brevity in public speaking named after Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez.

Setting up such prizes should pose no problem. Getting anybody to accept them may.

Couldn’t have said that better myself. This prize is nothing but a joke–joining a long list of other prizes that have proven to be absolutely meaningless.

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