Japan's First Unhcr Sadako Ogata Dies


Japan's first UNHCR Sadako Ogata dies

Japan's first UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, has died at the age of 92.

Ogata was born in Tokyo in 1927. She was the great granddaughter of former Japanese prime minister Tsuyoshi Inukai. Her father was a diplomat and she spent her childhood living overseas.

After graduating from the University of the Sacred Heart in Japan, Ogata went to the United States where she earned a master's degree at Georgetown University and a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1976, Ogata became the first Japanese woman Minister at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations.

Her stint as the first Japanese UN High Commissioner for Refugees lasted 10 years from 1991 to 2000.

The tumultuous period saw the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union that led to regional conflicts, as well as the genocide in Rwanda. Ogata's stance was to hit the ground herself to see the plight firsthand of the massive number of refugees driven out of their homes.

Shortly after Ogata became the UN refugee chief, 1.4 million Kurds displaced in northern Iraq were denied entry into Turkey. This prompted her to initiate a policy change at the UN refugee agency, by adding to its mandate people internally displaced by conflicts.

Ogata served as President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, known as JICA, from 2003 to 2012.