2 November 2020

Secretary-General Honours Former UN Refugee Chief Sadako Ogata as Great Humanitarian, Example of Women’s Effectiveness as Leaders, in Video Message to Japan Symposium

Following is the text of UN Secretary General António Guterres’ video message to Japan International Cooperation Agency Symposium in Memory of Madame Sadako Ogata, held today:

Madame Sadako Ogata was a great humanitarian and a role model for people around the world.  As President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency and as High Commissioner for Refugees, she set the standard for principled, compassionate and effective action.

Ms. Ogata left a broad legacy, including the many millions of people who enjoy better lives and opportunities thanks to her efforts.  She consistently raised awareness of the specific needs and fundamental rights of refugees around the world, through her strong advocacy for human security.  Ms. Ogata was fearless in standing up for people, for humanitarian action and for political solutions to conflict.

As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, Sadako Ogata’s strength, her principles and her values carry lessons for us all.

The pandemic poses risks to human security from all sides.  Conflict zones are a deadly environment in which the virus can spread unchecked, and where people have the least chance of prevention or treatment.  The economic and social impact of the pandemic is greatest on those who are already vulnerable.  Tens of millions of people face a slide into poverty and hunger.  Children who are out of school, particularly girls, may never return.

Putting people at the centre of our response and making sure we attend to all aspects of human security, from conflict mediation to humanitarian aid and strengthened health systems, will be critical.  Sadako Ogata was an example of the effectiveness of women’s leadership.  We need women’s contributions at all levels as we look to build a strong recovery from COVID-19.

Ms. Ogata was a great proponent of the multilateral solutions that are needed more than ever in the face of this global crisis.  I am confident that Japan will maintain and build on its record as a constructive and responsible member of the international community, working in a holistic way to protect human lives and enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment.

The United Nations is the steadfast partner of the Government and people of Japan.  We look forward to our continued cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Japanese corporations, civil society and young people.

Together, in the spirit of Sadako Ogata, let us resolve to come through the pandemic and build a better world for the future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.