Monday, December 2, 2019

Who is a refugee? Remembering U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata

The Lancet recalls the life and work of Sadako Ogata, born 16 September 1927; died 22 October 2019.

Sadako Ogata
"Sadako Ogata began to transform UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, almost as soon as she became UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 1991. At the time, the Gulf War had displaced more than a million Iraqi Kurds and thousands were blocked from crossing into Turkey. They were in desperate need just inside the Iraqi border. Ogata quickly sought to expand UNHCR's rules to allow it to provide aid not only to refugees but also to people displaced within their own country. “Most of the senior leaders in UNHCR were against providing assistance to those Kurdish refugees because they were inside Iraq”, said Izumi Nakamitsu, who was based in Turkey at the time for UNHCR and accompanied Ogata on her first mission as High Commissioner to visit the displaced Kurds. “The refugee law says that you're not a refugee until you cross the border and senior officials advised her against providing protection and assistance. But she instinctively felt this was wrong”, said Nakamitsu, who is now a UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. Ogata's insistence that UNHCR provide aid to people who are internally displaced is one of her lasting legacies."

And from the Guardian:

Sadako Ogata obituary
Independent-minded head of the UN agency for refugees, who expanded its role to help millions more displaced people

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