Sadako Ogata

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Sadako Ogata
緒方 貞子
Sadako Ogata - World Economic Forum on Africa 2008.jpg
Sadako Ogata at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2008
President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency
In office
October 2003 – April 2012
Succeeded by Akihiko Tanaka
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
In office
Preceded by Thorvald Stoltenberg
Succeeded by Ruud Lubbers
Personal details
Born 中村 貞子 (Nakamura Sadako?)
(1927-09-16) 16 September 1927 (age 88)
Tokyo, Japan
Alma mater University of the Sacred Heart
Georgetown University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Sadako Ogata at the World Economic Forum in 1993

Sadako Ogata (緒方 貞子 Ogata Sadako?, born 16 September 1927), is a Japanese academic, diplomat, author, administrator and professor emeritus at Sophia University.[1] She is widely known for the post of the decade as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board and as the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Early life[edit]

Sadako Nakamura (Ogata) was born on 16 September 1927[2] to a career diplomat father. Her mother was the daughter of Foreign Minister Kenkichi Yoshizawa and granddaughter of Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, who was assassinated when Sadako was four years old. The family influenced her interest in international politics. In her childhood, she lived in the USA and China due to her father's move.

After grown up, she attended the Catlin Gabel School, class of 1946, and graduated from University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo. After that, she studied abroad at Georgetown University and its Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in the USA. It was not common for a Japanese woman to study abroad at that time in Japan, even though the democratic days came after WWII. She wanted to study the cause of the defeated war at the university in the USA. She was awarded a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963, after she completed the research report on the policy formation of the foundation of Manchukuo by Japan in 1931. The report provided some clues of the cause of the start of Japanese invasion in China, which led to the defeated war. In 1965, she became a lecturer at International Christian University. After 1980, she taught international politics at Sophia University[3] as professor and later became Dean of faculty of Foreign Studies until the leave for UNHCR in 1991.


Sadako Nakamura married, in 1960, Shijuro Ogata (1927-2014), an official of Bank of Japan.,[3] later an Executive Director of Bank of Japan and a son of Taketora Ogata, and after the marriage, her name changed to Sadako Ogata. She has one son (Atsushi Ogata, a movie creator) and one daughter.


Sadako Ogata was appointed to be positioned as a Japanese member of the UN mission in 1968, on the recommendation of Fusae Ichikawa, a Senator of Japan and a famous woman activist, who highly assessed Ogata. After that, she represented Japan at several sessions of the General Assembly — in 1970. In addition, she served from 1978-79 as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at the permanent mission of Japan to the United Nations, and as the Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board. While playing as her role in UN, she also was engaged in the academic activities at International Christian University and Sophia University.

In 1990, she was nominated and appointed as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She quit the professor at Sophia University, left Japan for Geneva, and started the new position at the UNHCR. The presumed term at UNHCR was only about three years, namely, the remaining days of the abruptly left predecessor's term. However, after arrival at the post in 1991, her leadership & active works made her stay from 1991 until 2001, because what she did was unprecedented and respectable. She made efforts to set effective strategies and tasks for the refugees and helped countless refugees escaped from despair. For examples Kurdish refugees after Gulf war, the refugees in Yugoslav Wars, the refugees after Rwandan Genocide, Afghan refugees, namely, victims of the tragedies after Cold War, since 1990s. As a humanist she worked hard to protect the refugees, sometimes in a way that it was not bound by precedent. In addition, her attractive character often let the world leaders stand for the UNHCR actions. In recognition of the international power politics, she sometimes accepted the involvement of the military forces in the humanitarian operation for helping the refugees.

After 2001, she was appointed as the co-chairperson of UN Human Security Commission and she engaged in the reminiscences of her works for the refugees at home in NY. After September 11 attacks, in 2002, she was chosen as Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Japan on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan in order to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Next year, going back to Tokyo, Japan, she was positioned as the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency on 1 October 2003, chosen by the Japanese Government. Though she was over 70 years, she was appointed as the post due to her abilities and her leadership. It was reported that young officials of JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency, expressed their strong hope for her inauguration. She continued to work as the president of JICA more than two terms, over eight years, in spite of her age. She retired in April 2012 to be succeeded by Akihiko Tanaka.


Japanese decorations[edit]



Ms Ogata is an Eminent Member of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation.


  • "If we ignore the plight of the refugees or the burden of the countries which have received them, I fear we will pay a heavy toll in renewed violence. Conditions must be created urgently to allow the refugees to go back and live in peace and tolerance in their own country." — Liberty Medal acceptance speech, 4 July 1995[8]

Family tree[edit]

Tsuyoshi Inukai
Kenkichi Yoshizawa
Toyoichi Nakamura
Taketora Ogata
Sadako Ogata
Shijūrō 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. ^ Wessels, p. 219., p. 219, at Google Books
  3. ^ a b Wessels, p. 221., p. 221, at Google Books
  4. ^ "Cultural Highlights; From the Japanese Press (1 August – 31 October 2001)", Japan Foundation Newsletter, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, p. 7.
  5. ^ "Sadako Ogata receives Japan's Order of Culture," International Nursing Review (2004 March), Vol. 51, No. 1, p. 12.
  6. ^ a b "Filipino recipients of Japanese decorations and Japanese recipients of Philippine decorations". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. 
  7. ^ "Orden Mexicana del Águila Azteca a ciudadanos Japoneses" (in Spanish). Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ Liberty Medal acceptance speech, 4 July 1995

External links[edit]

  • Salokar, Rebecca Mae and Mary L Volcansek. (1996). Women in Law: a Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press; ISBN 9780313294105; OCLC 34284024