Speaking to EurActiv in an exclusive interview, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said that to make sure the organisation has more resources, it is increasing its partnerships with the private sector.
“We use new, innovative schemes such as promoting the use of smartphones to combat illiteracy; we work with Ericsson, with Nokia. We have interesting projects with a multinational such as Procter & Gamble for promoting girls' literacy in Senegal, [and] now we are starting similar projects in Kenya and Tanzania,” Bokova said.
UNESCO has a budget gap mainly due to the decision of the United States to withdraw the $80 million (€61 million) it annually gives the UN body – about 22% of UNESCO’s funding. The US pulled its support following UNESCO's decision in 2011 to grant Palestine membership.
But UNESCO sources told EurActiv that the push to develop partnerships with the private sector was a general trend for many international organisations.
EurActiv obtained a list of the current and most prominent partnerships between UNESCO and the private sector, covering the last 14 months. The total budget for each partnership is indicated in US dollars. Some companies, especially from Brazil, tend to fund development projects only on their soil.
But most of the companies on the list, including those from China, fund projects globally. Germany's BASF was a donor for what appears to be a project in disaster-affected areas in Japan, a developed country.
Among the biggest contributors for the last 14-month period were Panasonic, Microsoft, FC Malaga, China’s Wanda, Roche, Procter & Gamble, Nokia, China’s Chic Group and GEMS Education.
The projects sponsored range from education and world heritage conservation to the promotion of racism-free society.
The EU has similar views regarding the use of public and private resources for development projects. A new “Platform for blending funds in external cooperation” was set up last December to unlock additional resources for development cooperation.