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Sadako Ogata

Protecting refugees is – by its nature – controversial. Carrying out this dynamic and action-oriented function requires us to challenge the sovereign preserve of States to deal with non-citizens and, in some instances, their own people.

Before becoming High Commissioner, Sadako Ogata held positions in the United Nations, chairing the UNICEF Executive Board and serving on the UN Commission on Human Rights as its independent expert on the human rights situation in Burma (now Myanmar).

At UNHCR, she oversaw large-scale emergency operations in northern Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Great Lakes region of Africa. Our budget and staff more than doubled during her time in office, and we became increasingly involved in assisting internally displaced people and other vulnerable civilians in conflict situations. By emphasizing the link between refugees and international security, she also strengthened UNHCR’s relations with the UN Security Council.