UN rights office eyes corporate cash after Microsoft deal


UN rights office eyes corporate cash after Microsoft deal

Geneva (AFP) – The UN human rights office on Tuesday announced a $5-million (4.5 million euros) donation from Microsoft, billing the gift as a key step towards increasing corporate support. 

The grant, to be doled out over five years through a combination of cash and services, is aimed at helping the rights office aggregate and analyse data on global abuses. 

But the UN office also made clear that it wants to ramp up private sector donations to help fill perpetual funding gaps as support from member-states becomes increasingly uncertain, especially as major donor Washington is threatening deep cuts. 

“I hope this is just the beginning of something much bigger,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. 

The rights office has historically received almost no private support, a far cry from larger UN bodies like the children’s agency UNICEF. 

Deepening ties with major corporations like Microsoft could bring a series of conflicts for the rights office, as it is often compelled to speak out on issues like labour rights and data privacy. 

But Peggy Hicks, the director of thematic engagement at the UN agency said it would never remain silent in order to preserve a financial relationship. 

“The office obviously has quite a bit of experience dealing with getting funding from sources and then be in a position to express opinions that might not be entirely favourable to those sources”, she told reporters. 

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein welcomed a corporate donation from Microsoft
Copyright AFP/File Fabrice COFFRINI