United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Biography of the Director-General of UNESCO

KoÔchiro Matsuura has led UNESCO for the past ten 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 Collegeís 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 Japanís Sherpa for the G-7 Summit.

In 1999, while serving as Japanís Ambassador to France and chairing UNESCOís 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 November 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. He is married with two sons and three grandchildren.


Date of birth: 29 September 1937
Place of birth: Tokyo, Japan
Family: Married to Takako Kirikae and father of two sons
Languages: English, French, Spanish and Japanese


Since 2005 Re-elected UNESCO Director-General for a 4-year term on 15 November 2005

1999-2005 UNESCO Director-General (elected for a 6-year term on 15 November 1999)

1998-1999 Chairperson, World Heritage Committee of UNESCO

1994-1999 Ambassador of Japan to France and concurrently to Andorra and Djibouti

1992-1994 Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs (Sherpa for Japan at the G-7 Summit)

1990-1992 Director-General, North American Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1988-1990 Director-General, Economic Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1985-1988 Consul General of Japan in Hong Kong

1982-1985 Successively Director of the General Affairs Division and Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Ministerís Office

1980-1982 Director of the Aid Policy Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1977-1980 Counsellor of the Embassy of Japan, United States of America

1975-1977 Director of the Development Cooperation Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1974-1975 Director of the First North American Division (Political Affairs), Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1972-1974 Assumed various posts at the central administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1968-1972 Second Secretary, then First Secretary of the Japanese Delegation to the OECD, Paris

1963-1968 Assumed various posts at the central administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1961-1963 Third Secretary of the Embassy of Japan, Ghana; also accredited to other countries in West Africa


1959-1961 Faculty of Economics, Haverford College, USA

1956-1959 Faculty of Law, University of Tokyo


2002 Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century

2001 Building the New UNESCO

1999 A year of transition

1998 Japanese Diplomacy at the Dawn of the 21st Century (in French)

1995 Development & Perspectives of the Relations between Japan and France (in French)

1994 The G-7 Summit: Its History and Perspectives (in Japanese)

1992 History of Japan-United States Relations (in Japanese)

1990 In the Forefront of Economic Cooperation Diplomacy (in Japanese)

Source: Office of the Spokesperson -  Publication Date: 05-04-2006

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