Seoul Peace Prize

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Mrs. Ogata is not only a senior personality in the United Nations, but also has a distinguished career as an academician and a diplomat. Indeed the focus of her professional life has always been on the promotion of human security that includes protection of human rights and humanitarian assistance for refugees.

Mrs. Ogata's ties with the United Nations began when she was Minister at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United nations in 1976. She also served as Chairman of the Executive Board of UNICEF and Representative of Japan on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She assumed office as the devoted herself to the protection of refugees across the world through her eminent leadership, energetic activities and with noble humanitarian spirit. In recognition of her distinguished service, she was given the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, UNESCO 1995 Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize, Ramon Magsaysay
Award and many other international prizes.

 


During almost the ten years of her tenure, Mrs. Ogata has carried out scores of missions and has visited every continent. From her personal undertaking of dangerous relief activities in a bulletproof vest in Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict, to observation trips to northern Iraq during the Kurdish emergency, to the Balkans during the Kosovo crisis, and to other locations torn by civil strife such as Sierra Leon, East Timor, Chechnya and Guatemala, she has upheld the rights of those driven out from their homes and insisted upon their adequate protection, Thus she has consistently shown initiative, courage and leadership in solving refugee problems even at the risk of her own
safety.

 


In particular, Mrs. Ogata's firm belief in the principles of humanitarianism was clearly demonstrated in the protection of the hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees in Eastern Zaire in 1996 during the civil strife. At that time, countries supporting the UNHCR reduced their financial assistance to press Mrs. Ogata to give up on the protection of the refugees asserting that the refugees are under control of ex-soldiers of the old regime of Rwanda (Interhamwe). But she was determined to rescue the refugees in her belief that the protection and relief of the vulnerable segment including children and women serve the noble cause of humanitarianism. Consequently, 300,000 Rwandan refugees were successfully rescued and repatriated to their homeland in the wake of a civil war.

In the post-Cold War era, the number of refugees has rapidly grown as a result of civil wars and disputes between nations across the world. Pointing to the fact that the presence of 20 some million refugees around the globe poses threat to regional peace and stability, she has strongly advocated the notion that the ultimate answer to refugee problems lies in political solution and urged the parties to the conflict to settle their differences through political dialogue. Also in an effort to help alleviate the plight of refugees, she continued to persuade states to spend more on refugee issues and succeeded in creating relief funds amounting to as much as $1 billion annually, in addition to the establishment and operation of refugee camps the world over.
  Furthermore, under her guidance, UNHCR retooled and has become a modern and effective force capable of responding quickly and efficiently to crisis. The organization under her leadership is now one of the world's most important humanitarian agencies with 284 offices in 120 countries. In her capacity as UN High Commissioner for refugees, Mrs. Ogata brings hope to the millions of refugees around the globe through her dedication to humanitarian principles that few would equal. Recently High Commissioner Ogata has expressed concern over the issue of the North Korean refugees and consulted the nations concerned over the issue of the North Korean refugees and consulted the nations concerned on the issue of their safety and relief. As a humanitarian who has devoted so much to the cause of refugee protection, Mrs. Ogata's efforts towards promoting world peace and harmony of mankind will continue unabated.