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Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok Office sign MOU

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Published: February 16, 2016

On December 11, President Yoshinao Mishima welcomed Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Bangkok Office, and Ms. Sayaka Tsutsui, JFIT Programme Coordinator, to Tokyo Tech. After a brief meeting in the president's office, a signing ceremony was held for the Tokyo Tech-UNESCO Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a cooperation agreement for the purpose of contributing to the achievement of the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific through science and technology.

Director Kim(left) and President Mishima(right)

Founded in 1961, UNESCO Bangkok has a dual role. It functions as the Regional Bureau for Education in the Asia-Pacific, providing policy advice, technical assistance, and capacity development support to UNESCO Member States, other UNESCO Field Offices and UN country teams in the area of education. It is also a Cluster Office responsible for the implementation of all UNESCO-related educational, scientific, cultural, communication, and information programs in the Mekong countries of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Singapore.

Tokyo Tech's cooperation with UNESCO dates to the 1960s, when the Institute established the UNESCO International Course for Advanced Research in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering to provide advanced training to scientists, teachers, and researchers mainly from developing countries. Implemented for 38 years with joint sponsorship by UNESCO and the precursor to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, then known as the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, the program brought approximately 500 participants to Tokyo Tech for a year of post-graduate study. From 2004 to 2007, the Institute ran the Tokyo Tech UNESCO International Research Course for the Environment, a yearlong program which provided training in water resources management and the environment to a total of 34 young researchers from UNESCO member countries in Asia.

More recently, the Global Scientific Information and Computing Center (GSIC) and the Department of International Development Engineering (IDE) have played a central role in Tokyo Tech's engagement with UNESCO, conducting joint activities and collaborative research related to the use of information technology in education and culture. GSIC and IDE signed department-wide agreements with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and with UNESCO Bangkok. Professor Shinobu Yamaguchi of GSIC, together with IDE's Professor Jun-ichi Takada and Associate Professor Yukihiko Yamashita, are providing technical assistance for the development and operation of an online educational research database for education experts in Asia and the Pacific, and student members of the Yamaguchi and Takada lab have participated in internships related to the project at the UNESCO Bangkok office.

(from left) Professor Hirose, JFIT Programme Coordinator Tsutsui, Director Kim, President Mishima, Professor Yamaguchi, and Professor Takada
(from left) Professor Hirose, JFIT Programme Coordinator Tsutsui, Director Kim,
President Mishima, Professor Yamaguchi, and Professor Takada

The MOU between Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok marks the next step in cooperation between the two organizations. Given the very productive and practical collaborations thus far, UNESCO's Dr. Kim commented, "It is timely for us to sign an MOU." The agreement aims to promote implementation of joint projects in the field of education, sciences, culture, and communication and information, to establish staff exchanges, and to develop an internship program to provide selected graduate students of Tokyo Tech with internship opportunities at UNESCO Bangkok.

The meeting and signing ceremony were attended by Professor Yamaguchi, Professor Takada, Professor by special appointment Haruko Hirose of the Academy for Global Leadership, International Affairs Department Director Takayuki Kato, and International Cooperation Division Head Yuka Tsukada.

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