Yasushi Akashi



Yasushi Akashi served as Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) from March 1996 to December 1997, under Secretary-Generals Boutros Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan.  Towards the end of his tenure, the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) was restructured and reborn as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tokyo in 1954, Mr. Akashi studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Virginia, and later at the Flectcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  He became the first Japanese national to join the United Nations Secretariat in 1957, when he served the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs as a junior officer.  His long and distinguished career at the United Nations, spanning over 40 years, includes serving as Special Advisor of the Secretary-General in New York, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Former Yugoslavia, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cambodia, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, and Under-Secretary-General for Public Information.  Mr. Akashi also served the Government of Japan, first as a Minister and later in 1974 as Ambassador at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations.   

With a strong background in political affairs, international security and diplomacy, Mr. Akashi well understood that humanitarian emergencies have complex origins and rarely have a purely humanitarian solution.  As ERC and USG for Humanitarian Affairs, he advocated to strengthen humanitarian coordination and enhance the international community's ability and will to forge comprehensive solutions to humanitarian problems: solutions that incorporated the political, security, social and economic elements without which humanitarian aid alone can accomplish little of lasting value. 

Mr. Akashi was also responsible for overseeing part of the implementation of Security Council 986 (1995) to alleviate the impact of United Nations sanctions on Iraq's civilian population and to meet essential humanitarian needs by a variety of measures.  He was also keenly concerned about landmine issues and was a strong advocate of humanitarian demining.  He vigorously called for international attention to 'forgotten emergencies' as in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  During his term, DHA actively responded to natural and environmental disasters including floods in DPRK; snowstorms, earthquakes and floods in China; hurricanes in Central America; and severe floods in Yemen.

His tenure as ERC and USG for Humanitarian Affairs coincided with the introduction of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's organisational reform initiative proposed in "Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform" (A/51/950) which resulted in refocusing and strengthening the core functions of the ERC, in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly Resolution 46/182.  Three core functions of (1) policy development and coordination functions in support of the Secretary-General, (2) advocacy of humanitarian issues, (3) and coordination of humanitarian emergency response were identified, while operational aspects including management of the Iraq Programme, functions related to demining activities, and functions related to national capacities such as disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness were redistributed to other parts of the United Nations system.           

After leaving OCHA, Mr. Akashi served as President of the Hiroshima Peace Institute as well as of the Asahi Simbun Asia Network (AAN) until February 1999.  Presently, he represents the Government of Japan on Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka, while simultaneously undertaking multiple responsibilities as Chairman of the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention (JCCP), President of the Council on Population, President of the Japan Association for the Study of the United Nations, Director of the Foreign Language Research Institute of the Gunma Prefectural Women's University and a Visiting Professor at the Ritsumeikan University and the Toyo Eiwa University

Mr. Akashi is married and has two children.