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Ogata re-elected U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

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Ogata re-elected U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

30 September 1998

The United Nations General Assembly yesterday (29 September) re-elected Mrs. Sadako Ogata to a further two-year-period as the U. N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The extension of her mandate followed a recommendation by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in which he respected the High Commissioner's request not to serve another full five-year period, for personal reasons. Upon completion of her new term, which will run from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2000, Mrs. Ogata will have served as High Commissioner for 10 years.

The re-election was announced on Tuesday in New York just as the High Commissioner was flying back to Geneva from a six-day visit to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania. After seeing first-hand the plight of victims of the conflict in Kosovo, Mrs. Ogata reiterated her call for an immediate end to the hostilities there. She said she was "shocked and saddened" by the suffering of the displaced people she met throughout her visit.

On learning of her re-election for a third term, the High Commissioner pledged: "I am deeply honoured by the trust placed in me by the international community and will continue to the very best of my ability to protect and assist the world's most vulnerable people: refugees. But problems of forced displacement cannot be solved without decisive political action. Part of my job is to alert the international community to the need for such engagement."

Ogata, a 71-year-old Japanese national, has been High Commissioner since 1 January 1991, when she replaced the Norwegian Thorvald Stoltenberg, who returned to Norway to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

During the last year of her mandate, UNHCR will commemorate its 50th anniversary. The Office was established in December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. "The world has changed enormously in the last half century," Mrs. Ogata said, "but the challenge of protecting those fleeing persecution and violence remains undiminished."

When Mrs. Ogata took office in 1991, UNHCR was responsible for 15 million refugees. Today, UNHCR cares for 22.4 million people, including refugees, returnees and internally displaced people.