Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo

Dr. Sadako Ogata, Japan’s most famous United Nations administrator, scholar and diplomat passed away on October 22 at the age of 92.

Sadako was born in a high-class family and grew up in the atmosphere of Japan’s liberal age between two World Wars. After attaining a firm academic achievement in her early career, she put herself in the turbulent world of diplomacy and UN administration.

She took the position of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1991 and stayed there the whole decade of civil wars and refugees in the Balkans and in Africa after the end of the Cold War.

Then, she was the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) from 2003 to 2012 overseeing and leading Japan’s development aid to Asia and Africa.

She was married with an internationally successful central banker, Shijuro Ogata, who was a director of the Bank of Japan who oversaw the bank’s international affairs and whose name remains in the title of “Volker-Ogata Report” which was issued by the UN on its financial restructuring. Even his fame is eclipsed by his wife Sadako’s.

One of her legacies is the advocacy and implementation of the idea of Human Security. She co-chaired with Dr. Amartya Sen, an economist and philosopher, the UN Human Security Commission from 2001-2003 and its report titled “Human Security Now: Protecting and Empowering People” which was published in 2003 was a cornerstone in the development of this idea and its practices.

Security has long been monopolized by the state within the domains of military, police and intelligence. Of course, they are important and indispensable parts of security. But the more important is the purpose of them. The purpose is the security of the people.

In this globalized and interdependent world, poverty, environmental destruction, natural disasters, infectious diseases, terrorism, and sudden economic and financial crises are the main sources of threat to the life of the people. How to protect ordinary people from suffering caused by the conflict and disaster, is the focus of the idea of the Human Security. To empower people to fulfill their own potential to encounter destitute and keep dignity of themselves is the true purpose of the international aid.

This purpose-centered and human-oriented way of the Human Security was established as Japan’s priority and standard not only for its policy on the international development aid but also for its security policy and diplomacy in general.

Sadako Ogata was a cold realist who pursued ideals with a sacred heart. R.I.P.