Sadako Ogata assumed office as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 18 February 1991. She was elected to this post by the United Nations General Assembly on 21 December 1990, for three years starting 1 January 1991. Mrs. Ogata was reelected on 4 November 1993 for a further period of five years (January 1994 to December 1998). On 29 September 1998, Mrs. Ogata was reelected by the General Assembly to a further two-year period.
Mrs. Ogata was Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo since 1989. Prior to that (1987-1988), she was Director of the Institute of International Relations at the same university. Since 1980, she was Professor at the Institute.
Mrs. Ogata was the Independent Expert of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar in 1990. From 1982 to 1985, she was Representative of Japan on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
From 1978 to 1979, she was Chairman of the Executive Board of UNICEF.
Also during 1978 and 1979, Mrs. Ogata was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, having served as Minister there from 1976 to 1978. From 1974 to 1976, she served as Associate Professor, Diplomatic History and International Relations, at the International Christian University in Tokyo. From 1965 to 1974 she lectured in International Relations at the International Christian University and at the University of the Sacred Heart, also in Tokyo.
Professor Ogata received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1963, an M.A. in International Relations from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. in 1953 and a B.A. from the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo in 1951. Professor Ogata has published a number of books on diplomatic history and international relations as well as numerous articles.