UNHCR statement on the death of former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata visits Rwandan refugees in the Bukavu area of South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in February 1995.
© UNHCR/Panos Moumtzis

Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, who led UNHCR from 1991 to 2000, passed away in Tokyo, Japan, her family has announced.

“Mrs. Ogata was a visionary leader who steered UNHCR through one of the most momentous decades in its history, transforming the lives of millions of refugees and others devastated by war, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and helping redefine humanitarian action in a fast evolving geopolitical landscape,” said High Commissioner Filippo Grandi. “She was a committed internationalist and a friend to the United Nations throughout her life.”

Mrs. Ogata became High Commissioner shortly after the Cold War came to an end, triggering profound changes in the global political landscape and uprooting tens of millions of people. Under her leadership, UNHCR mounted large-scale emergency operations in response to crises in the former Soviet Union, Iraq, the Balkans, Somalia, the Great Lakes, and East Timor, as well as helping millions of refugees return home in large-scale repatriation operations in Central America, Africa and Asia. For the first time, the agency took on a prominent role working directly in conflict zones to protect and support refugees and internally displaced people, and to help prevent further displacement.

A respected Japanese academic and skilled multilateral diplomat, Mrs Ogata was a tireless advocate for international solidarity with refugees, ensuring that resolving displacement crises was part of political negotiations and peace processes. She remained closely associated with the United Nations and the refugee cause after completion of her tenure as High Commissioner, pioneering the notion of “human security” and the use of development aid to help solve displacement in her capacity as President of JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

We at UNHCR extend deepest condolences to Mrs Ogata’s son Atsushi and her daughter Akiko, to all her family and to the government and people of Japan for their great loss.

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