He was joined at the ceremony by Mr Obuchi’s widow, Mrs Chizuko Obuchi, by Mr Tadamichi Yamamoto, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Japan to UNESCO, and by sixteen fellows of this programme.
In his opening remarks, the Director-General shared his personal memory of Mr Obuchi, “the great statesman and humanist” who had died in May 2000, “at the height of his distinguished career”. Mr Matsuura recalled that “after meeting as classmates at secondary school in Japan in the early 1950’s, Keizo Obuchi and I became lifelong friends. As Prime Minister of Japan, he strongly supported my candidature for the post of Director-General of UNESCO and his premature death, just six months after I took up that office, was not only a national loss for Japan – it was a personal loss for me.”
“As a public figure, Mr Obuchi will always be remembered for his faith in the power of people to shape the world and forge a better future….. He believed that the key to success for every country lay in developing the capacity of human resources, especially by investing through education in the younger generation. Nine years after he passed away, Keizo Obuchi’s beliefs are more important today than ever. His priorities remain ours: reforming education systems with a view to developing what Mr Obuchi called the ‘education of the heart’; achieving gender equality; safeguarding the global environment; preventing disaster through enhancing human capacity for crisis management and making the 21st century a ‘century of peace’ through dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution”, stated the Director-General.
Mr Matsuura continued: “In order to commemorate and honour this great man and his noble vision, I established the UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi research fellowships in 2001 with the financial support of the Japanese Government. Through this programme, 20 Fellowships are granted to exceptional candidates from developing countries and countries in transition every year.”
Speaking about the research fellowships, the Director-General noted that “the programme has supported innovative and imaginative post-graduate research in areas of development to which former Prime Minister Obuchi was committed: the environment – especially the water sciences; intercultural dialogue; information and communication technologies; and peaceful conflict resolution. It has made a significant contribution to boosting human capacity in developing countries. By allowing selected candidates to take up research in any academic host institution anywhere in the world, the fellowships have also helped expand knowledge exchange and transfer between developed and developing countries.” Mr Matsuura observed that 160 students from 82 countries had so far benefited from these fellowships, adding that candidatures for the 2009 awards are currently being evaluated and that 20 more students would be awarded Fellowships in 2010, thus bringing the total number of students to 200.
In thanking the Government of Japan for its generous financial assistance without which this very popular initiative would not have been possible, the Director-General expressed the “hope that it will maintain its funding for the programme long into the future so that the UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi Fellowships may continue to extend help to gifted young researchers from developing countries.”
In her remarks, Mrs Obuchi recalled that the development of human capacities had constituted a key element in her husband’s vision of the world. She was thus very happy to see that the seeds of that vision flourishing through the UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi Fellowships Programme and extended her best wishes to the fellows.
Following brief presentations by each of the sixteen beneficiaries – two for each year from 2001 to 2008 inclusive, Ms Florence Nzisa Nswilli Muinde of Kenya and Mr Timur Dadabaev of Uzbekistan took the floor on behalf of all recipients, in English and Japanese respectively, to thank the Japanese Government for its financial support for this programme which was enabling the professional development of a new generation of research leaders in developing countries and countries in transition. They expressed the hope that the programme would continue so that others could benefit from a similar expression of confidence in their capacities and pledged to uphold the legacy of Keizo Obuchi through their research by always “thinking and building peace.”
At the end of the ceremony and in tribute to Keizo Obuchi’s remarkable contribution to peace and development, the Director-General and Mrs Obuchi presented each of the participating fellows with the UNESCO sixtieth anniversary medal on which the motto “thinking and building peace” is inscribed.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 109-2009 - Publication Date: 10-06-2009