The Malaysia-UNESCO Cooperation Programme (MUCP) through the Malaysia Funds-in-Trust (MFIT) was introduced as a means to enhance South-South cooperation for the benefit of the developing countries of the Asia and the Pacific region as well as for Africa, with particular emphasis on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Under MUCP, 20 projects have received financial support via MFIT. These projects drew on the expertise of Malaysian institutions including UNESCO’s Category 2 Centres – the International Centre for South-South Cooperation for Science, Technology and Innovation (ISTIC) and on the Regional Humid Tropics Hydrology and Water Resources Centre for South East Asia and the Pacific (HTC). Several projects have produced tangible results and many are still on-going and are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

A one day meeting was held at the Equatorial Hotel Penang, Malaysia on 8 March 2016 to review new project proposals to be implemented in the upcoming cycle. The 5th MUCP/MFIT Steering Committee Meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Madinah Mohamad, Secretary General of the Ministry of Education Malaysia and representatives from UNESCO, Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO Jakarta and Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Bangkok. High-Level Officials from the Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Education were also present at the meeting. They were joined by representatives from the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO headquarters and field offices.

In her opening address, Dr. Madinah Mohamad reiterated Malaysia’s continued commitment as the newly elected member of the Executive Board, to support UNESCO’s mission through the MUCP. Dr. Shahbaz in his remarks highlighted the importance of synthesizing the project outcomes by showcasing projects which will help identify key issues as well as develop common recommendations and implications for south-south cooperation to deliver UN Agenda 2030. Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim thanked the Government of Malaysia (GOM) for substantive technical and financial support not only through the MUCP but also in the upcoming ministerial policy forum on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheduled to be held from 18 to 21 July 2016 in Malaysia. He also reiterated the importance of demonstrating the benefits of this programme particularly by learning from Malaysia’s experience of developing the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) and its implementation.

The afternoon session was mainly devoted to reviewing of the pre-selected proposals, including a question and answer session via SKYPE with respective Executive Officers and Project Officers from Headquarters and Field Offices. The meeting concluded with consensus on new projects.

While in Penang, the meeting participants were generously provided with local hospitality by the Malaysian Government and the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI). A visit to the GTWHI office and a brief tour of the George Town World Heritage Site was also arranged with brief introduction on its background and its many programmes and activities.