Koïchiro Matsuura has led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the past nine years, carrying out major institutional reforms while advancing a range of programs from universal basic education to freshwater management to the preservation of living arts and cultures.
Born in Tokyo in 1937, he was educated at the Law Faculty of the University of Tokyo, and at Haverford College, where he earned a B.A. in economics (Phi Beta Kappa, 1961). He returned to the College’s Pennsylvania campus in 2006 to receive an honorary doctorate in law from his alma mater.
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 Consul General in Hong Kong. As Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1992-1994, he was Japan’s Sherpa for the G-7 Summit.
In 1999, while serving as Japan’s Ambassador to France and chairing UNESCO’s flagship World Heritage Committee, Mr Matsuura was elected by Member States to his first term as Director-General of UNESCO. He undertook a sweeping reform, cutting high level posts, strengthening resources in the field, and focusing on key programme priorities. After a first term marked by programme and reform accomplishments, as well as the addition of new countries, including the United States, to membership in UNESCO, he was re-elected to a second term in October 2005.
Mr. Matsuura has authored books in Japanese, English and French on UNESCO, international relations, the intersection between diplomacy and development cooperation, Japan-US relations, Japan-French relations, and a history of the G-7 Summit.