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, Cape Town, South Africa, on June 4, 2008
President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency
In office
1 October 2003 – 30 March 2012
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Akihiko Tanaka
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
In office
Preceded by Thorvald Stoltenberg
Succeeded by Ruud Lubbers
President of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund
In office
Preceded by Ferdinand Oyono
Succeeded by Zaki Hasan
Personal details
Born 中村 貞子 (Nakamura Sadako)
(1927-09-16) 16 September 1927 (age 90)
Azabu, Tokyo City, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
(present day Minato, Tokyo, Japan)
Alma mater University of the Sacred Heart
Georgetown University
UC Berkeley
Sadako Ogata at the World Economic Forum in 1993

Sadako Ogata, née Nakamura (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 as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 1991 to 2000, as well as in her capacities as the Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board[2][3] and as the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). She was a lecturer of the International Christian University (ICU), and is now the advisor of the Executive Committee of the Model United Nations (present day Japan Model United Nations, JMUN)[4] as the founder of the Model United Nations in Japan.

Early and academic life[edit]

Ogata was born on 16 September 1927[5] to a career diplomat father Toyoichi Nakamura, who was the Japanese ambassador to Finland. 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.

She attended the Catlin Gabel School, class of 1946, and graduated from the University of the Sacred Heart (a Catholic university in Tokyo) with a bachelor's degree in English Literature. After that, she studied abroad at Georgetown University and its Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in the US for a master's degree in International Relations. It was not common for a Japanese woman to study abroad at that time in Japan, even though the democratic days came after the end of WWII in Asia following the surrender of Japan. She wanted to study the causes of Japan's defeat in war at a university in the US. She was awarded a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963, after she completed a research report on the policy formation of the foundation of Manchukuo by Japan in 1931. The report provided some clues to the causes of the Japanese invasion in China, which led to the defeat. In 1965, she became a lecturer at International Christian University. After 1980, she taught international politics at Sophia University[6] as a professor and later became the Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Studies until she left to join the UNHCR in 1991.


United Nations / United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees[edit]

Ogata was appointed to a position as a Japanese member of the UN mission in 1968, on the recommendation of Fusae Ichikawa, a member of the House of Councillors of Japan and a famous woman activist who thought highly of Ogata. After that, she represented Japan at several sessions of the UN 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 UN, and as the Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board.[2][3]

In 1990, she was nominated and appointed as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She left the position of professor (political science) at Sophia University in Tokyo, quickly moved to Geneva, and started her 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. After arrival at the post in 1991, however, her leadership and active works led to her staying from 1991 until 2001.[7] She made efforts to set effective strategies and tasks for the refugees and helped countless refugees escape from despair, including the Kurdish refugees after the Gulf War, the refugees in the Yugoslav Wars, the refugees after the Rwandan genocide, Afghan refugees, namely, victims of the tragedies after Cold War, since 1990s[7]. In the face of Kurdish refugees at the border between Turkey and Iraq, Ogata expanded the mandate of UNHCR to include the protection of the IDPs, an unprecedented decision[7]. In recognition of the international power politics, she sometimes accepted the involvement of military forces in the humanitarian operations for helping refugees, e.g. at the siege of Sarajevo, the Airlift Operations in cooperation with some European air forces during the Bosnian War.[7]

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 New York.[7]

Japanese government[edit]

After the 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.

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."[8]

Next year, going back to Tokyo, the Japanese government appointed her as the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on 1 October 2003. Though she was over 70 years old, she was appointed as the post due to her abilities and her leadership. It was reported that young JICA officials expressed their strong hope for her inauguration, even before the formal appointment.[9] She continued to work as the 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 which was settled as Junichiro Koizumi the Prime Minister's private advisory organ which belonged to the Cabinet Office on November 27, 2014.[10] The conferences of the council were held in 17 times from January 25, 2005 to discuss the Japanese succession controversy and the Imperial Household Act. On 24 November 2005, The Advisory Council submitted the report including the approval of not only female imperial ruler but also female lineage imperial ruler, and the primogeniture with priority for succession of the Emperor.[11] Her alma mater is the same as the Empress Michiko's, 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 April 17, 2012, in Tokyo.[12] Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave the greeting to her. He said that "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".[13] Ogata is an Eminent Person of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation.[14]


Japanese decorations[edit]



  • "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[19]


In 1960, Nakamura married Shijuro Ogata (1927–2014), a son of Taketora Ogata, who was also an official of the Bank of Japan[6] and later became its executive director. After the marriage, her name changed to Sadako Ogata. She has one son (Atsushi Ogata, a movie creator) and one daughter.

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. ^ a b "Officers of the UNICEF Executive Board 1946–2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Sadako Ogata (Japan): 1991-2000". UNHCR. Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "MUN in Japan - 27th All Japan Model United Nations". All Japan Model United Nations (AJMUN). Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  5. ^ Wessels, p. 219., p. 219, at Google Books
  6. ^ a b Wessels, p. 221., p. 221, at Google Books
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Turbulent Decade: Confronting The Refugee Crises Of The 1990s" by Sadako Ogata, 2005, W W Norton & Co Inc (2005/2/17)
  8. ^ French, Howard W. (2002-02-02). "After Firing, The Fallout: Japan's Chief Stumbles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-12. 
  9. ^ "Kikigaki Ogata Sadako Kaikoroku (Oral History Sadako Ogata)"(2015) Iwanami Shoten Publishing Company. page-no 262-3
  10. ^ "皇室典範に関する有識者会議 - 首相官邸". Cabinet Secretariat of Japan. November 24, 2005. Retrieved April 13, 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. November 24, 2005. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  11. ^ "皇室典範に関する有識者会議 - 首相官邸". Cabinet Secretariat of Japan. November 24, 2005. Retrieved April 13, 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. November 24, 2005. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  12. ^ "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. April 17, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2016. 
  13. ^ "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. April 19, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Structure of the Foundation". Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation. Retrieved 20 August 2016. 
  15. ^ "Cultural Highlights; From the Japanese Press (1 August – 31 October 2001)" Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., Japan Foundation Newsletter, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, p. 7.
  16. ^ Ogata, S. "Sadako Ogata receives Japan's Order of Culture". Int Nurs Rev. 51: 12. PMID 15022694. 
  17. ^ a b "Filipino recipients of Japanese decorations and Japanese recipients of Philippine decorations". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. 
  18. ^ "Orden Mexicana del Águila Azteca a ciudadanos Japoneses" (in Spanish). Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  19. ^ Liberty Medal acceptance speech, 4 July 1995

External links[edit]