First Woman to Lead U.N. Refugee Agency, Sadako Ogata, Dies at 92

Phnom Penh: The Embassy of Japan in Cambodia received the news of the passing of Ms. Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The Embassy of Japan in Cambodia expresses the deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of Ms. Ogata and also expresses its respect for her contribution to Cambodia and the world,  sincerely wishing her soul rest in peace.

Ms. Ogata was born on September 16, 1927 and died on October 22, 2019 at the age of 92. She was a Japanese academic, diplomat, author, administrator, and professor emeritus at Sophia University, Ms. Ogata was widely known as 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 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).

As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (1991-2000), Ms. Ogata worked hard for the better life of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world. For Cambodia, she led the Office to realize the repatriation of approximately 370,000 Cambodian refugees from refugee camps in the border area with Thailand to Cambodia in 1992-1993 to let them able to join the election conducted by the UNTAC.

She was the daughter of a career diplomat, Toyoichi Nakamura, who was the Japanese ambassador to Finland. Her mother was a daughter of Foreign Minister Kenkichi Yoshizawa and granddaughter of Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, who was assassinated when Sadako was four years old.

She attended the Catlin Gabel School, class of 1946, and graduated from the University of the Sacred Heart with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She then studied at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service  at Georgetown University , earning a master’s degree in International Relations. It was not common for a Japanese woman to study abroad at that time. She wanted to study the causes of Japan’s defeat in war in the US. 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 to China. In 1965, she became Lecturer at International Christian University. After 1980, she taught international politics at Sophia University as a Professor and later became Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Studies until her departure to join the UNHCR in 1991.

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