chapter  6
UNESCO and the Software Companies: bridging the digital divide, or transforming US dominance?
Pages 20

We find that the new partnerships enter right into some of the most divisive issues in UNESCO’s history: the tension between cultural relativism and universalism; local versus global media dominance; local versus global producers of communication technology; and, perhaps most importantly, tensions between the dominant USA and the rest of the member countries. In the view of the critics, Microsoft may achieve what the United States historically never quite managed, to make UNESCO an organization that supports the universal, liberal values of the United States, and at the same time the global capitalist system which it dominates. This chapter will assess whether this view is accurate, and these partnerships mark the final defeat of UNESCO as a truly multilateral institution; or the reverse, whether the PPPs exemplify the willingness of major ICT corporations to contribute to goals negotiated

within the frame of a multilateral institution. The chapter starts with an introduction to UNESCO. The second part discusses the new challenges it faces related to the ICT revolution. The third part discusses the rise of private-sector partnerships in UNESCO, with a particular emphasis on the partnerships with Intel and Microsoft. The last part discusses broader systemic issues related to the new partnerships.