Mrs. Sadako Ogata, who served as Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 1991 to 2000 and President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) from 2003 to 2012, passed away on October 22. Mrs. Ogata was a person who symbolized Japan’s peaceful diplomacy after the Second World War, and played an important role in Japan’s diplomacy and security policy. In addition, her name has become synonymous with the support for refugees. In any discussion on the Japanese government’s diplomacy, we had a glimpse of Mrs. Ogata.
If I recall correctly, it was when she was President of JICA, Mrs. Ogata delivered a passionate lecture on Japan’s economic aid to the developing countries and support for refugees at the auditorium of the Liberal Democratic Party, and she frequently used the term ‘international interest’. The outline of her lecture was that Japan’s economic aid to developing countries goes around and ultimately benefits Japan. It was an embodiment of her philosophy.
When the time for questions and answers came, I raised my hand and questioned her. “I have heard the term ‘international interest’ for the first time. It is a precious idea, but I think international interest should be based on the national interest. More specifically, any international economic aid to developing countries needs be considered in terms of whether it links to Japan’s national interest.” With my frank opinion, the audience fell silent for a moment. It is my memory of Mrs. Ogata in my younger days.
Mrs. Ogata passed away at the age of 92. I pray that her soul may rest in peace.