Former UN refugee agency chief Sadruddin Aga Khan dies

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

13 May 2003 – Former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who led the UN agency during the 1960s and 1970s, died in Boston on Monday. He was 70.

"All in UNHCR and the entire humanitarian community are deeply saddened by the passing away of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. He left an indelible print on UNHCR's history - leading the agency through some of the most challenging moments. Sadruddin's name became synonymous with UNHCR," said High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers, who received the news of the Prince's death while on mission in West Africa.

A statement issued by a UN spokesman said Secretary-General Kofi Annan was saddened to learn of the death of Prince Sadruddin, who was described as a "philanthropist and lifelong friend" of the United Nations. "He joins the Prince's many friends around the world in giving thanks for the life of this remarkable and deeply generous human being," the statement said.

Prince Sadruddin became High Commissioner in January of 1966 at the age of 33 - the youngest person ever to lead UNHCR. Prior to becoming High Commissioner, he served for three years as Deputy High Commissioner. He was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods, including the 1971 Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people, the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, Prince Sadruddin played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.

After leaving UNHCR at the end of 1977 at his own request, he served in various capacities dealing with humanitarian situations in many parts of the world on behalf of the United Nations. These included Afghanistan and Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War. He was also a trustee of a number of charity organizations. He published several books and received numerous national and international decorations, including the French Legion d'Honeur and the UN Human Rights Award.

Prince Sadruddin is the uncle of Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of 12 million Ismaili Muslims. He is survived by his wife, Princess Catherine Aleya Aga Khan.

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