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TOKTEN Worldwide History

Interest in mobilizing the experience of expatriate professionals from the third world remained unfocused until 1977, when UNDP started working with several developing countries to reverse losses caused by the massive exodus of their specialists and to transform part of the enormous brain drain into brain gain.

TOKTEN began in Turkey following a three-week visit to the UNDP-assisted Karadeniz Technical University from a senior mechanical engineer of Turkish origin based in California. The engineer’s remarkable success in communicating substantive know-how (as well as candid criticism) to his Turkish colleagues suggested that such expatriates were uniquely equipped to carry out consultancies in their homelands. On the initiative of the UNDP Resident Representative in Turkey at the time, the Government promptly set up the first TOKTEN project in 1977

In the twenty years since the programme's inception, 5,000 TOKTEN volunteers have completed assignments in 49 developing countries in a wide spectrum of fields. Nearly all areas are covered, from public administration to management of enterprises, from agricultural research to computer technology.

Since 1994, the programme has come under the umbrella of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme.

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