Former High Commissioner Sadruddin Aga Khan dies
13 May 2003
GENEVA - Former High Commissioner Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who had led the UN refugee agency during 12 years in the 1960s and 1970s, died in Boston on Monday, the Prince's Geneva-based Bellerive Foundation announced today. He was 70.
"All in UNHCR and the entire humanitarian community are deeply saddened by the passing away of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. He left an indelible print on UNHCR's history - leading the agency through some of the most challenging moments. Sadruddin's name became synonymous with UNHCR," said High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers, who received the news of Prince Sadruddin's death while on mission in West Africa.
Prince Sadruddin became High Commissioner in January of 1966 at the age of 33 - the youngest person ever to lead UNHCR. Prior to becoming High Commissioner, he served for three years as Deputy High Commissioner. He was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods. This included the 1971 the Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people, the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, Prince Sadruddin played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.
Prince Sadruddin's entire adult life was devoted to humanitarian work. After leaving UNHCR at the end of 1977 at his own request, he served in various capacities, dealing with humanitarian situations in many parts of the world on behalf of the United Nations. These included Afghanistan and Iraq during the first Gulf war. He was also a trustee of a number of charity organisations. He published several books and received numerous national and international decorations, including the French Légion d'honneur and the United Nations Human Rights Award.
Prince Sadruddin is the uncle of Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of 12 million Ismaili Muslims. He is survived by his wife, Princess Catherine Aleya Aga Khan.