Friday - 16 February, 2007
VISIT OF MR. KOICHIRO MATSUURA – DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO TO
GHANA and UNESCO Relations
The Director – Director of UNESCO Mr. Koichiro Matsuura is expected in Accra on the 15th February, 2007 at the invitation of H.E. President John Agyekum Kufour, President of the Republic of Ghana. The visit can be considered a distinguished one since the Director – General is visiting the country for the second time running, during his term of office – A scenario that is rare in UNESCO circles.
Mr. Matsuura earlier on visited the country in January, 2004 at the invitation of H.E. Mr. John Agyekum Kufour, President of the Republic of Ghana and the then Chairman of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS). During the first visit, Mr. Matsuura commissioned a Sub-Regional Distance Education Programme at the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast and also launched the United Nations Year to commemorate “The Struggle against slavery and its Abolition”.
The forth – coming visit:
Mr. Matsuura, during this visit will launch the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the North Atlantic Slave Trade. He will also open two conferences: ‘From Slave Route to Heritage Route’ being organized by the Ministry for Tourism and Diasporan Relations and ‘Water and Culture’ Conference, being organized by the UNESCO Cluster Office and the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture.
Mr. Matsuura is also expected to break grounds at the Castle premises, for the erection of a monument on slavery. He will further visit the refurbished Ussher Fort and attend a durbar of Chiefs of Old Accra as a Guest of Honour.
Mr. Koichiro MATSUURA
Born in 1937, Mr. Maatsuura began his diplomatic career in Ghana in 1961. He later served in most West African countries. His strong interest in the cultures and people of Africa is therefore least surprising.
Mr. Matsuura began his diplomatic career with a posting to Ghana in 1961 covering ten West African countries, leading to a lifelong passion for the cultures and people of Africa. He worked in development cooperation throughout his career, and in political affairs with a focus on North America. In the 1970s he served as Counselor at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC, and later as Foreign Affairs from 1992-1994, he was Japan’s Sherpa for the G-& Summit.
Mr. Matsuura has served as Director–General of UNESCO since 15th November, 1999. He was given a second mandate for a four – year term in October 2005 during UNESCO’s 33rd General Conference, held in Paris, France.
He has for the past seven years led extensive institutional reforms at UNESCO while advancing a range of programmes from universal basic education to fresh water management and the preservation of living arts and cultures.
UNESCO and what it does:
UNESCO was founded in 1945, as an agency of the United Nations, with the purpose of fostering international understanding and cooperation, towards the maintenance of World peace. With an initial membership of 20 countries which signed its constitution in November 1945, the organization now has 191 Member States and five (5) Associate Members as at January 2006.
Its main functions include advocacy, capacity-building and standard-setting, through its areas of competence: Education, the Sciences, Culture and Communication.
Presently, UNESCO is actively pursuing the Millennium Development Goals, especially those which aim to:
- Halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries by 2015.
- Achieve universal primary education in all countries for Education for all – EFA Programme).
- Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2015.
- Help countries implement a national strategy for sustainable development.
The cordial relations that exist between Ghana and UNESCO date as far back as 1953 when the country became an associate member of the organization. Ghana became a full member of the UNESCO in 1958 after the country’s independence and consequently established its National Commission for UNESCO.
Ghana has played an active role in the work of the organization over the years:
- The country had the privilege of hosting the first UNESCO Regional Education Centre in Africa as far back as 1961. The Centre was for “Education Information and Research”.
- Ghana has served on the Legal Committee of the organization since the 14th General Conference in 1980 to date. It is the only black African Country that has served on the Committee for such a long time. Besides, Ghana is among five countries in the world that have served on the Committee for over 16 sessions of the General Conference.
- Ghana was one of the seven (7) African countries elected to serve on the prestigious 58 – Member Executive Board of UNESCO during the 32nd General Conference held in 2003. This was the fifth time Ghana had been elected to serve in that capacity. Indeed, Ghana is on record to have been the first African country south of the Sahara to have been elected Chairman of the Executive Board. It is also the first African country to have had a woman serving on the Executive Board of the Organization. The UNESCO Executive Board is the organ responsible for overseeing inter-sessionary programmes and activities of the Organization’s Biennial General Conference. It is also a forum for members to discuss major challenges facing the organization.
- At the General Conference in October 2003, Ghana was elected as one of the Vice-Presidents of the General Conference. H. E. President J. A. Kufuor was invited as a Special Guest of Honour to the 33rd General Conference of UNESCO held in October 2005. Ghana, again, had the privilege of being elected as Vice-President of the 33rd General Conference.
- Ghana has made its fair contribution to the staff strength of UNESCO. Ghanaians have served in these high positions at UNESCO: Director of International Standards and Legal Affairs; Chief of the Science Education Division; Chief of the Communication and Information sector; UNESCO’s representatives to Nigeria, Jamaica, and other accredited countries. Presently however, there is an urgent move to fill Ghana’s representation quota at UNESCO.
- The establishment of a UNESCO Cluster Office in Accra to serve Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana Nigeria and Togo under the organisation’s reform process in 2001 is a clear demonstration of the key role Ghana is playing in UNESCO circles. The Director – General of UNESCO carried out extensive consultations with Member States before arriving at a decision to establish the present 22 Cluster offices in selected countries around the world.
- The Director – General of UNESCO in 2001 awarded the UNESCO Einstein Medal to the Ghana National Commission of UNESCO, Mr. John Kusi – Acheampong, for his meritorious and dedicated services to the organization and Ghana. In a citation read by the Director – General at the ceremony in Paris, the Ghana National Commission was described as the strongest National Commission in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the best in the world.
UNESCO Support to Ghana over the Years:
- In the area of support, Ghana has enjoyed immense financial and technical support from UNESCO over the years. Among others, we cite UNESCO’s assistance for the following:
- The establishment of the Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA), The Science Faculty and the Book Industry Department at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi.
- The provision of equipment for scientific Instrumentation Centre at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Accra.
- The establishment of the School of Library Studies and the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, Legon.
- The setting up of the Planning, Budgetary, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (PBME) of the Ministry of Education.
- The establishment of community radio stations at Ada, Winneba, Apam and in recent times, Pokuase and Ajumako-Biseasi and Asankrangwa.
- The various heritage sites and biosphere reserves in the country.
- The rehabilitation of Forts/Castles as well as Ashanti Traditional buildings which feature on World Heritage list.
- Support for the Ghana Journalists Association, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) and the National Film and Television Institute.
- Training of media professionals (Fellowships, Training courses at the Korean Broadcasting Systems (KBS) and Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA).
- Provision of assistance to the Population and Communication programme at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), the Secretariat of Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and the Ghanaian Chronicle Newspaper
- The setting up of the National Council on Women and Development and the National Commission on Children.
- In 2003, Ghana was selected to host a Regional Centre for Distance Learning at the University of Cape Coast. The Centre is expected eventually, to serve countries within the West African sub-region.
- Support for Capacity – building in teacher Education through Japanese Funds in – Trust grants, resulting training for some 24,000 untrained teachers in the system.
- Strengthening of the Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) of the Ministry of Education to ensure that all districts are hooked unto the net for access to data on schools.
- Support for the ECOWAS Ministers’ meeting, held in Accra, which has put in place priority educational projects in HIV/AIDS, Girls’ Education, Science and Technology, Technical/Vocational and Teacher education. Ghana is the present Chairman of the Conference.
- The ICT Centre for the Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) School located at Osu Home School.
Courtesy of Ghana National Commission for UNESCO
Daily Graphic - 16 February, 2007 Page: 4