Lists

Fool’s Gold

China's Confucius Peace Prize isn't the only bogus award out there. An FP list of the world's most laughable humanitarian honors.

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CONFUCIUS PEACE PRIZE

Where: China

China quickly threw this award together as a rebuke to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, but the whole endeavor proved to be a fiasco. The prize committee didn’t bother to inform the designated winner, former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan, who was supposed to receive the honor on account of having “built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan.” (Lien’s political party, the nationalist Kuomintang, officially endorses the idea of a unified China as opposed to an independent Taiwan.) With Lien unavailable, China instead gave the award — and the 100,000 yuan attached to it — to a little girl the committee described as an “angel of peace.” That’ll buy a lot of candy and toy ponies.

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

WORLD CITIZEN AWARD

Where: Swaziland

When the kingdom of Swaziland announced in September that its prime minister, Barnabas Dlamini, would be receiving an award for “contributions to humankind,” human rights groups familiar with Dlamini — who reportedly endorsed torture to crush opposition in his country — smelled a rat. Indeed, the “group apparently bestowing the honor appears to be little more than a Florida phone number and website,” the Associated Press reported. The trustees listed on the website told reporters their names were used without permission, and the engraver who Dlamini claimed had carved his name into the prize turned out to have been dead for 44 years. Despite these contradictions, Dlamini apparently still received the award.

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

QADDAFI INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Where: Libya

When Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Libya to accept the “Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights,” he joined the ranks of Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela. It’s an area in which Gaddafi himself could use a refresher course, however. In 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote that “Libyans and foreign residents in Libya continue to suffer from serious violations of human rights,” citing the country’s poor record on political prisoners, torture, and civil liberties. Gaddafi might be on firmer ground handing out awards for excellence in fashion.

Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

PRESIDENT’S VOLUNTEER CALL TO SERVICE AWARD AND PLATINUM AWARD 2009 BY PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA

Where: Gambia

It did not take much investigation — or even much Googling — to determine the authenticity of the plethora of awards Gambian President Yahya Jammeh claimed to have received earlier this year. First there was the awarding institution, the rather dubious International Parliament for Safety and Peace. Then there were the email-spam-worthy award titles, including the “President’s Volunteer Call to Service Award,” the “Platinum Award 2009 by President Barrack [sic] Obama,” and the “Honorary Vocational Bachelors Degree,” allegedly presented by the Printers and Publishers Guild of Northern Germany. Weirdly enough, the least plausible-sounding commendation Jammeh claimed, “Admiral of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska,” actually exists — it’s a beloved inside joke in the landlocked state — even if Jammeh couldn’t get the name of the governor quite right. It’s probably just as well that Jammeh, who formally goes by the moniker His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, isn’t really an admiral — his name would probably collapse under the weight of another title.

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

UNESCO-OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR RESEARCH IN THE LIFE SCIENCES

Where: United Nations

In 2008, the executive board of UNESCO created the Mbasogo Prize to reward “scientific achievements that improve the quality of human life.” Named after Equatorial Guinea’s strongman, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the award was directly funded by the dictator to the tune of $3 million over the span of five years. The optics here for the U.N. were not great, as Obiang has by most counts been something less than a net positive for the quality of human life in Equatorial Guinea over the three decades he has run the country. He has been accused of living large on his country’s oil wealth at the expense of his subjects — Equatorial Guinea is reported to have the worst child-mortality rate in the world — and of killing and possibly eating his enemies. Human Rights Watch called Mbasogo the “epitome” of what UNESCO should oppose. Under mounting pressure, UNESCO finally suspended the award in October, before anyone was unlucky enough to receive it.

JEROME DELAY/AFP/Getty Images

CONFUCIUS PEACE PRIZE

Where: China

China quickly threw this award together as a rebuke to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, but the whole endeavor proved to be a fiasco. The prize committee didn’t bother to inform the designated winner, former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan, who was supposed to receive the honor on account of having “built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan.” (Lien’s political party, the nationalist Kuomintang, officially endorses the idea of a unified China as opposed to an independent Taiwan.) With Lien unavailable, China instead gave the award — and the 100,000 yuan attached to it — to a little girl the committee described as an “angel of peace.” That’ll buy a lot of candy and toy ponies.

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

WORLD CITIZEN AWARD

Where: Swaziland

When the kingdom of Swaziland announced in September that its prime minister, Barnabas Dlamini, would be receiving an award for “contributions to humankind,” human rights groups familiar with Dlamini — who reportedly endorsed torture to crush opposition in his country — smelled a rat. Indeed, the “group apparently bestowing the honor appears to be little more than a Florida phone number and website,” the Associated Press reported. The trustees listed on the website told reporters their names were used without permission, and the engraver who Dlamini claimed had carved his name into the prize turned out to have been dead for 44 years. Despite these contradictions, Dlamini apparently still received the award.

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

QADDAFI INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Where: Libya

When Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Libya to accept the “Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights,” he joined the ranks of Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela. It’s an area in which Gaddafi himself could use a refresher course, however. In 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote that “Libyans and foreign residents in Libya continue to suffer from serious violations of human rights,” citing the country’s poor record on political prisoners, torture, and civil liberties. Gaddafi might be on firmer ground handing out awards for excellence in fashion.

Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

PRESIDENT’S VOLUNTEER CALL TO SERVICE AWARD AND PLATINUM AWARD 2009 BY PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA

Where: Gambia

It did not take much investigation — or even much Googling — to determine the authenticity of the plethora of awards Gambian President Yahya Jammeh claimed to have received earlier this year. First there was the awarding institution, the rather dubious International Parliament for Safety and Peace. Then there were the email-spam-worthy award titles, including the “President’s Volunteer Call to Service Award,” the “Platinum Award 2009 by President Barrack [sic] Obama,” and the “Honorary Vocational Bachelors Degree,” allegedly presented by the Printers and Publishers Guild of Northern Germany. Weirdly enough, the least plausible-sounding commendation Jammeh claimed, “Admiral of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska,” actually exists — it’s a beloved inside joke in the landlocked state — even if Jammeh couldn’t get the name of the governor quite right. It’s probably just as well that Jammeh, who formally goes by the moniker His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, isn’t really an admiral — his name would probably collapse under the weight of another title.

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

UNESCO-OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR RESEARCH IN THE LIFE SCIENCES

Where: United Nations

In 2008, the executive board of UNESCO created the Mbasogo Prize to reward “scientific achievements that improve the quality of human life.” Named after Equatorial Guinea’s strongman, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the award was directly funded by the dictator to the tune of $3 million over the span of five years. The optics here for the U.N. were not great, as Obiang has by most counts been something less than a net positive for the quality of human life in Equatorial Guinea over the three decades he has run the country. He has been accused of living large on his country’s oil wealth at the expense of his subjects — Equatorial Guinea is reported to have the worst child-mortality rate in the world — and of killing and possibly eating his enemies. Human Rights Watch called Mbasogo the “epitome” of what UNESCO should oppose. Under mounting pressure, UNESCO finally suspended the award in October, before anyone was unlucky enough to receive it.

JEROME DELAY/AFP/Getty Images

Mohammad Sagha is an editoral researcher at Foreign Policy.

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