Last year, it was announced that the 2009 Foreign Minister��s Commendation would be bestowed upon Mr Melville Guest and Professor Marie Conte-Helm for their outstanding contribution to relations between Japan and the UK.
Mr Guest became the first Chief Executive of Asia House in 1996. In 2002, he was appointed as Executive Director for the UK-Japan 21st Century Group, an organisation which brings politicians, business people and those with a strong interest in Japan together, and promotes cooperation between the UK and Japan. As Executive Director, he was active in lobbying ministers and officials on issues that affected the bilateral relationship and he was successful in helping to secure the support of then Prime Minister Tony Blair for funding for British participation in the Aichi World Expo in 2005. Mr Guest has also been a strong advocate for increasing higher education funding for Japanese studies and his current involvement with Imperial College has led to the college signing a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo University. On receiving the commendation, he stated ��I am deeply grateful for this award from the Japanese Foreign Minister. Japan has had a profound impact on my life, through its society and culture, and through my work and contacts in many fields, enabling me to make many lasting friendships. For the Japanese Government to consider that I have made a contribution to the strengthening of its bilateral relations with the UK is a great honour and pleasure."
Professor Marie Conte-Helm is Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, in which capacity she has worked actively to support closer links between the United Kingdom and Japan. Professor Conte-Helm started her career in the Embassy of Japan��s Information and Cultural Centre in the 1970s, where she was in charge of educational outreach. Her academic career then focused on the history of relations between the two countries. She has published widely in this field. Her book entitled ��Japan and the North East of England: From 1862 to the Present Day�� is still appreciated as a rare and valuable source to review the official and commercial exchanges with that region of the UK. She was actively engaged in cultural exchange activities throughout her academic career and served on various committees for Japan-related festivals including The 1991 Japan Festival and Japan 2001. In her appointment to the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in 2000, this experience was applied to the Foundation��s essential role in supporting Japan-related cultural and educational activities in the UK. On hearing the news that she would receive the award, Professor Conte-Helm commented ��I am honoured to receive this Commendation. In celebrating the recent 150th anniversary of UK-Japan diplomatic relations, we have been reminded of the long and rich history of friendship ties between the two countries. Through my role as Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and in my previous academic career, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work in support of mutual understanding and exchange. "