UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Organisation


Noboru Noguchi

After graduation from the University of Tokyo, entered the Japanese Ministry of Education in 1961 and worked for the Japanese National Commission for Unesco. Was awarded a United Nations Fellowship in 1969 for study abroad.
Entered the Unesco Headquarters in 1971, and was engaged in education projects.
Returning home, worked again for the Japanese National Commission for Unesco as Executive Secretary. Attended many important UNESCO meetings such as the General Conference, Executive Board, Ministerial Conferences, etc.
After having served for the United Nations University, rejoined the Unesco Headquarters in 1992 as Director of Fellowship and Equipment Division. Transferred to the Unesco Beijing Office as Representative to China, Mongolia and the DPR Korea.
Currently working as Director-General of the National Federation of Unesco Associations in Japan and teaching at Bunkyo Gakuin University as Vice-President and Professor.
Books published: UNESCO 50 Years of History and Future Prospects, Paris: Four Seasons and Life
“Non-Governmental UNESCO Movement in Japan-Birth of the Very First UNESCO Associations”

1. Birth of the Non-Governmental UNESCO Movement in Japan

Japan was admitted to UNESCO in 1951, against the backdrop of the spontaneous rise of the UNESCO Co-operative Associations movement just after the end of World War 2. It should be recalled that Japan’s admission to Unesco was realized five years before it became a member of the United Nations. Indeed, Japan’s admission to Unesco was truly historic and extremely significant since it was one of the most important of the few pipelines between the country and the international community before the signing of San Francisco Peace Treaty.

The movement to cooperate with Unesco and disseminate Unesco’s noble ideals rose spontaneously at non-governmental level. The Japan Pen Club expressed its intention to support Unesco in February 1947. The very first Unesco Cooperative Association was created in Sendai City, Japan, on 19 July 1947. Mr. Kochi Doi, Professor of Tohoku University, and other intellectuals took initiatives to create this voluntary association.
The noble ideals enshrined in the Unesco Constitution inspired and kindled the hearts of many Japanese. The Japanese were suffering from an acute shortage of food and were struggling to recover from the complete devastation of the land. Although people were extremely poor, they wanted to live in peace and to reconstruct the country as a peace loving nation. Unesco was a hope. The spirit of Unesco was highly and widely appreciated among the Japanese citizens as the guiding principle for the reconstruction of post-war Japan. Soon after the creation of the first UNESCO Co-operative Association in Sendai, in July 1947, similar associations were born one after another in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, and other cities. Around this time, major newspapers carried editorials welcoming the growing aspirations of citizens towards Unesco and highlighting the central role of Unesco among the UN agencies to promote peace by “constructing defenses of peace in the minds of men”. This led to the organization of the First National Convention of the Unesco Movement in Japan which was held in Tokyo as early as November 1947, attended by representatives of many Unesco Co-operative Associations and eminent persons including Dr. Hideki Yukawa.

The General Headquarters (GHQ), the main authority of occupied Japan at the time, supported these activities. The Unesco Headquarters too opened its representative office in Tokyo as early as April 1949 and started its support of the Japanese people. This was two years before Japan’s admission to Unesco.The Parliament of Japan also adopted resolutions both at the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors respectively in November and December 1949, fully endorsing Unesco’s noble mission and appreciating its support of the Japanese people. They also expressed their sincere wish that Japan would be admitted to Unesco.

As mentioned above, the first National Convention of the Non-Governmental UNESCO Movement was held in December 1947, and it served as the basis for the building of a network extending throughout Japan. The National Federation of UNESCO Co-operative Associations in Japan was born in May 1948, and the number of Associations exceeded 100 already in 1949. Finally, the 8th session of the Unesco General Conference in 1951 approved Japan’s admission to Unesco. Mr. Tamon Maeda, the chief Japanese delegate, made a speech of appreciation, stating that “the more difficult is the defense of peace, the more firmly are we convinced of the absolute necessity of international cooperation through the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and more especially through the construction of the defenses of peace in the minds of men.”

Since their inception, Unesco Associations have increased in number and developed their activities to promote international understanding among peoples and implement international cooperative activities.

2. Establishment of AFUCA and WFUCA

The Japanese Federation of UNESCO Co-operative Associations changed its name to the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan (NFUAJ) in 1951, and the NFUAJ has continued its activities in the various fields of the competence of UNESCO, reflecting the different periods of time. The NFUAJ sent research missions to study UNESCO club activities in Asia, Europe and North America, leading the way to the creation of the Asian Pacific UNESCO Clubs and Associations (AFUCA) in 1974. Observers of UNESCO clubs from various parts of the world attended the AFUCA inaugural meeting, inspiring the establishment of the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs and Associations (WFUCA). WFUCA was set up in 1981 in Paris, and Mr. Kiyoshi Kazuno, the then President of both AFUCA and NFUAJ, was elected as its first President.

3. Current Major Activities of NFUAJ 

At present, NFUAJ consists of nearly 300 local Unesco Associations located all over the country, individual members and supporting member organizations. The NFUAJ has promoted activities mainly in the fields of international understanding and international exchange programmes. In the 1970’s it expanded its scope to international cooperation, first to support the Unesco Co-Action Programme. The programme was started in 1962, and developed rapidly in 1979 due to the International Year of the Child. Over 150 Unesco Associations took part in this activity, and over US$ 1million was collected for Co-Action donations. The NFUAJ took the initiative of establishing cooperative ties with Unesco literacy programmes in Asia, Africa and Latin America, one year prior to the International Literacy Year. The NGO Forum of the World “Terakoya” Movement commemorating the International Literacy Year was organized, and it gave birth to the UNESCO World Terakoya Movement. The NFUAJ was awarded the UNESCO Literacy Award in 1991 together with the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Nagoya International Center. (Note: “Terakoya”s were privately run small schools for the children of ordinary people. They played a very important role in disseminating basic ‘three Rs’ education amongst the public before the modernization of Japan.)

Over the last fifteen years, the NFUAJ has been placing special emphasis on three subjects. The first is the World Terakoya Movement, a project to support and empower grass-roots-level literacy activities together with basic skill training, often implemented in close cooperation with fellow NGOs in developing countries. The second consists of promotional activities to spread awareness of the significance of the World Heritage Convention which includes the publication of the annual report of World Heritage, and actual support for the preservation of certain Unesco World Heritage sites such as Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The third is gaining the involvement of younger generations in our movement, and collaboration with other NGOs at the regional level to achieve the goals of UNESCO.
Additional Note

When serving at the Unesco Beijing Office, I launched an initiative to promote activities with a view to furthering mutual understanding and friendship among children in the East Asia sub-region (China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Republic of Korea and Macau SAR). Sub-regional meetings of National Commissions for Unesco were organized. In commemoration of the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace, a children’s paintings contest was organized in this sub region and a special calendar was published, using the winning paintings.

With the guidance of Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of Unesco, the Unesco Beijing Office and I started a Children’s Performing Arts Festival. This Children’s Festival continues to be held in the sub region: first in Beijing in 2001, then in the Japanese city of Fukuoka in 2002, in Suwon in the Republic of Korea in 2004, and in Macau SAR in 2005. This Festival is much appreciated, and is significant in promoting friendship among children and youth in the East Asian sub-region.

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