Sadako Ogata

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Sadako Ogata
緒方 貞子
Sadako Ogata (cropped).jpg
Sadako Ogata in 1993
President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency
In office
1 October 2003 30 March 2012
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byAkihiko Tanaka
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
In office
3 November 1990 31 December 2000
Preceded by Thorvald Stoltenberg
Succeeded by Ruud Lubbers
President of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund
In office
Preceded byFerdinand Oyono
Succeeded byZaki Hasan
Personal details
中村 貞子 (Nakamura Sadako)

(1927-09-16)16 September 1927
Azabu, Tokyo City, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
(present day Minato, Tokyo, Japan)
Died22 October 2019(2019-10-22) (aged 92)
Tokyo, Japan
(m. 1960;died 2014)
ChildrenTwo; including Atsushi Ogata
Alma mater University of the Sacred Heart
Georgetown University
University of California, Berkeley

Sadako Ogata, néeNakamura (緒方 貞子, Ogata Sadako, 16 September 1927 – 22 October 2019), was a Japanese academic, diplomat, author, administrator, and professor emeritus at the Roman Catholic Sophia University. [1] She was widely known as the head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 1991 to 2000, as well as in her capacities as Chair of the UNICEF Executive Board from 1978 to 1979 [2] [3] and as President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) from 2003 to 2012. She also served as Advisor of the Executive Committee of the Japan Model United Nations (JMUN). [4]


Early and academic life

She was born on 16 September 1927 [5] to a career diplomat father Toyoichi Nakamura (who became in 1943 the Japanese ambassador to Finland) and her original name was Sadako Nakamura. Her mother was a daughter of Foreign Minister Kenkichi Yoshizawa and granddaughter of Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, who was assassinated when She was four years old, due to his opposition to Japanese militarism, whose assassination marked the end of civilian control over the Japanese military until after World War II.

She was born in Tokyo, Japan and, due to her father's profession, she lived in the U.S. (she attended the Catlin Gabel School in Portland) from 4 to 8 years old, also lived in China from 8 to 10 and the family went back to Japan. [6] She stayed in Japan during World War II and after the war, she graduated from the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo with a bachelor's degree in English Literature. Though it was not common for a Japanese woman to study abroad at that time, she dared to study at Georgetown University and its Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, earning a master's degree in International Relations. She wanted to study the reason why Japan entered a reckless aggression war, which was not put a brake on after the assassination of her great-grandfather, Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. [7] She was awarded a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963, after she completed a dissertation on the politics behind the foundation of Manchukuo. The study analyzed the causes of the Japanese invasion of China. As for her personal life, in 1960 she married Shijuro Ogata and her name changed from Sadako Nakamura to Sadako Ogata. In 1965, she became Lecturer at International Christian University in Tokyo. After 1980, she taught international politics at Sophia University in Tokyo [8] as a professor and later became Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Studies until her departure to join the UNHCR in 1991.


Ogata at the World Economic Forum on Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, on 4 June 2008 Sadako Ogata - World Economic Forum on Africa 2008.jpg
Ogata at the World Economic Forum on Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, on 4 June 2008

United Nations / United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Ogata was appointed to Japan's UN mission in 1968, on the recommendation of Fusae Ichikawa, a female member of the House of Councillors of Japan, who was an activist of the women's suffrage in Japan since 1920's and had a high opinion of Ogata's character & ability. Ogata represented Japan at several sessions of the UN General Assembly in 1970. In addition, she served from 1978 to 1979 as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the permanent mission of Japan to the UN, and as Chair of the UNICEF Executive Board. [2] [3]

In 1990, she was appointed as head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She was the first woman to be appointed as a head of the UNHCR. [9] She left Sophia University to start her new position at UNHCR. Her presumed term at UNHCR was only three years, which was the remaining term of her predecessor who had left after only one year, but she continued to be assigned. She was re-elected twice (in November 1993 and in September 1998), [10] and served, over a decade, until 2001. [11]

As head of the UNHCR, she implemented effective strategies and helped countless refugees escape from despair, including Kurdish refugees after the Gulf War, refugees in the Yugoslav Wars, refugees in the Rwandan genocide, and Afghan refugees including victims of Cold War. [11] In the face of Kurdish refugees at the border between Turkey and Iraq, Ogata expanded the mandate of UNHCR to include the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs). [11] She was a practical leader who deployed military forces in the humanitarian operations, for example at the siege of Sarajevo, the Airlift Operations in cooperation with some European air forces during the Bosnian War. [11] During the period, the budget and the staff in UNHCR more than doubled. [12]

Her formidable negotiating skills and petite stature earned her the nickname of "diminutive giant."

After UNHCR leader, in 2001, she became co-chairperson of UN Human Security Commission.

Japanese government / JICA President

In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, she was appointed as Special Representative of Prime Minister of Japan on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan.

Ogata in 2012 Sadako Ogata - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012.jpg
Ogata in 2012

The Koizumi government approached Ogata as a candidate to replace Makiko Tanaka as Japanese foreign minister in early 2002, but Ogata refused to accept the position. Although Ogata did not publicly explain her refusal, Kuniko Inoguchi told The New York Times that Ogata "would hate to be used as a token or a figurehead because she has fought all her life for the condition of women, and she wouldn't help someone who would try to use her for their political purposes." [13]

Next year, going back to Tokyo, the Japanese government appointed her as President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on 1 October 2003. It was reported that young JICA officials expressed their strong desire for her leadership, even before the formal appointment. [14] She led JICA with her emphasis on ideas from fields and Human Security. [15] She built up peace-building projects on Afghanistan and Mindanao. [16] By adding loan assistance, under her leadership JICA became the world-largest bi-laterial aid organization in 2008. [17] She continued to work as president of JICA for more than two terms (over eight years), retiring in April 2012 to be succeeded by Akihiko Tanaka.

She was a member of The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law on 27 November 2014. The council was Junichiro Koizumi then-Prime Minister's private advisory organ which belonged to the Cabinet Office. [18] The council met 17 times from 25 January 2005 to discuss the Japanese succession controversy and the Imperial Household Act. On 24 November 2005, The Advisory Council's recommendation included female members' right to the throne including the right to be extended to the female lineage, and extension of the primogeniture to female members of the imperial household. [19] Both Ogata and Empress Michiko's alma mater is the University of the Sacred Heart.

A "Reception for Respecting Mrs. Sadako Ogata's Contributions to Our Country and the International Community" was held by Kōichirō Genba, Minister for Foreign Affairs on 17 April 2012, in Tokyo. [20] Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave a speech. He said "Because of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the offers of assistance to Japan from more than 160 countries and more than 40 international organizations were NOT irrelevant to Mrs. Sadako Ogata's achievements". [21]

Ogata was involved in the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation. [22]


Japanese decorations



Personal life

In 1960, she married Shijuro Ogata (1927–2014), a son of Taketora Ogata, who was also an official of the Bank of Japan [8] and later became its executive director. After the marriage, she changed her name from Sadako Nakamura to Sadako Ogata. She has one son (Atsushi Ogata, a film director) and one daughter. Ogata died on 22 October 2019 at the age of 92. [30]

Family tree

Tsuyoshi Inukai
Misao Kenkichi Yoshizawa
TsunekoToyoichi Nakamura Taketora Ogata
Sadako OgataShijūrō Ogata
Atsushi Ogata


  1. Wessels, David et al. (1996). "Sadako Ogata" in Women in Law: a Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, p. 222. , p. 222, at Google Books
  2. 1 2 "Officers of the UNICEF Executive Board 1946–2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Sadako Ogata (Japan): 1991-2000". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees . Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  4. "MUN in Japan - 27th All Japan Model United Nations". All Japan Model United Nations (AJMUN). Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  5. Wessels, p. 219. , p. 219, at Google Books
  6. "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 2-8
  7. "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 34
  8. 1 2 Wessels, p. 221. , p. 221, at Google Books
  9. Green, Andrew (November 2019). "Sadako Ogata". The Lancet. 394 (10213): 1986. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32793-X .
  10. "Records of the Office of the High Commissioner" (PDF).
  11. 1 2 3 4 "The Turbulent Decade: Confronting The Refugee Crises Of The 1990s" by Sadako Ogata, 2005, W W Norton & Co Inc (2005/2/17)
  12. "Sadako Ogata (Japan): 1991-2000".
  13. French, Howard W. (2 February 2002). "After Firing, The Fallout: Japan's Chief Stumbles". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  14. "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 262-264
  15. "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 264-272
  16. "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 272-281
  17. "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 281-287
  18. "皇室典範に関する有識者会議 - 首相官邸". Cabinet Secretariat of Japan. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2016. "The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law Report - The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law 24th November,2005" (PDF). Cabinet Secretariat of Japan. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  19. "皇室典範に関する有識者会議 - 首相官邸". Cabinet Secretariat of Japan. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2016. "The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law Report - The Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law 24th November,2005" (PDF). Cabinet Secretariat of Japan. 24 November 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  20. "外務省: 緒方貞子氏の我が国及び国際社会への貢献に敬意を表すレセプション(実施概要)" (in Japanese). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  21. "緒方貞子氏の我が国及び国際社会への貢献に敬意を表すレセプション - YouTube" (in Japanese). Prime Minister's Office of Japan Official Channel - YouTube. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  22. "Structure of the Foundation". Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  23. "Cultural Highlights; From the Japanese Press (1 August – 31 October 2001)" Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine , Japan Foundation Newsletter, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, p. 7.
  24. Ogata, S (2004). "Sadako Ogata receives Japan's Order of Culture". Int Nurs Rev. 51 (1): 12. PMID   15022694.
  26. 1 2 "Filipino recipients of Japanese decorations and Japanese recipients of Philippine decorations". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.
  27. "Orden Mexicana del Águila Azteca a ciudadanos Japoneses" (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  29. Liberty Medal acceptance speech, 4 July 1995
  30. "Japan's Sadako Ogata, ex-U.N. high commissioner for refugees, dies at 92". Kyodo News. 29 October 2019.

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