WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department on Wednesday mourned the loss of Sadako Ogata, a former United Nations high commissioner for refugees, saying that her legacy as an advocate for displaced persons is an “inspiration” to humanitarian workers worldwide.
Calling Ogata a “trailblazer,” as she was the first woman to be appointed to the U.N. post, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement, “She instituted new global standards and capacities for UNHCR emergency response and humanitarian assistance.”
“Working closely with the United States, Mrs. Ogata led UNHCR to emphasize the protection of refugee women and children in its programs,” the spokeswoman said.
Ogata, who led the UNHCR for about 10 years from 1991, died in Tokyo on Oct. 22 at the age of 92. She is credited with leading efforts to help refugees and internally displaced people around the world, including Kurdish refugees from Iraq after the Gulf War.
She also tackled the refugee crises in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s, making numerous visits to conflict zones during her tenure through 2000.
“Her leadership at the end of the Cold War enabled millions of refugees to repatriate to their homes,” Ortagus said, adding that Ogata’s “legacy as an advocate for displaced persons and the alleviation of suffering is an inspiration to humanitarian workers around the world.”