(1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR

“We must do everything possible to prevent human suffering”

His Highness the Aga Khan with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres at UNHCR Headquarters. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres at UNHCR Headquarters. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan visited the UNHCR headquarters on November 6, 2015 to meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, and discuss past and future cooperation in emergency operations around the world. His Highness is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and nephew of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who was high commissioner for refugees from 1965-77, a pivotal period in the organization’s history.

His Highness was greeted by UNHCR staff before he held private talks with the High Commissioner  followed by a meeting with senior UNHCR officials on the long-standing partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the UN refugee agency.

The two sides looked at ways of further strengthening their partnership in the Middle East, Asia and East Africa. They discussed possible new joint initiatives in areas such as contingency planning; pluralism and diverse societies; and country specific cooperation in areas where AKDN is active as well as global advocacy to bridge the humanitarian-development divide.

They also discussed the global political situation and the effects of extremism and sectarianism on previously tolerant and diverse societies.

“We must do everything possible to prevent human suffering,” said the Aga Khan. “But preempting humanitarian emergencies requires investments, equipment and the necessary resources to ensure the response system is already in place when the crisis hits.”

The High Commissioner agreed, noting that “UNHCR and the Aga Khan Development Network have a lot in common. It is partnerships like ours that can help broaden the way the international community responds to crises today through a stronger humanitarian-development link, and by promoting closer cooperation with actors from different cultural and geographical backgrounds.”


Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 - 2003). Photo: UNesco Courier. Copyright

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003). Photo: Unesco Courier. Copyright

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, uncle of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, led the UN refugee agency during 12 years in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving an indelible print on UNHCR’s history. He led the agency through some of the most challenging moments, and his name became synonymous with UNHCR.

Prince Sadruddin became High Commissioner in January of 1966 at the age of 33 the youngest person ever to lead UNHCR. Prior to becoming High Commissioner, he served for three years as Deputy High Commissioner. He was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods. This included the 1971 the Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people, the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, Prince Sadruddin played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.

Prince Sadruddin’s entire adult life was devoted to humanitarian work. After leaving UNHCR at the end of 1977 at his own request, he served in various capacities, dealing with humanitarian situations in many parts of the world on behalf of the United Nations. These included Afghanistan and Iraq during the first Gulf war. He was also a trustee of a number of charity organisations. He published several books and received numerous national and international decorations, including the French Légion d’honneur and the United Nations Human Rights Award.

Simerg has come across many pieces of letters and documents on Prince Sadruddin in the UN archives, and we reproduce two below that serve as reminders of his priceless services to the United Nations.



“This extension…constitutes a new fixed term appointment on a $1 a year basis…” 

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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Extension of Appointment



“Prince Sadruddin was a statesman in the truest sense of the word. By focusing on the protection of refugees, he represented the moral and compassionate side of the international community…He worked on behalf of the poor and dispossessed, while celebrating humanity through culture and art…”

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Kofi Annan Message for Prince Sadruddin Aga KhanDate posted: Saturday, November 7, 2015.


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  1. Report of His Highness Aga Khan’s visit to UNHCR and Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s profile compiled and adapted from the website of http://www.unhcr.org.
  2. United Nations Archives at https://archives.un.org/

Please also see the following articles on Prince Sadruddin posted on this website: