Statement by Dr. Atsuko Heshiki
Alternate Representative of Japan
on item 66: Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Sixty-sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
17 October 2011
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007, has successfully drawn people’s attention to the protection and promotion of human rights of indigenous peoples at the national level as well as in the international community. I would like to take this opportunity to focus on the recent developments of the indigenous issue in Japan.
Japan has put in efforts to build comprehensive policies to protect and respect the human rights of the Ainu people. In 2008, after the adoption of the UN Declaration, the Diet of Japan unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as indigenous people and the establishment of comprehensive policies for them. Responding to this resolution, the Government of Japan recognized that the Ainu people have their own language, religion and culture, and that they are indigenous inhabitants of the northern part of Japan, particularly Hokkaido.
The Government of Japan thereafter set up the Advisory Panel of Eminent Persons, consisting of several high-level experts including a representative of the Ainu people. In July 2009, the Panel submitted its report that proposed several basic principles of the Ainu policy and recommended measures in various areas including education, revitalization of the Ainu culture and the promotion of industrial development.
The Government of Japan then established the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion, hosted by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, in December 2009. This was the first official policy-making forum in which several Ainu representatives, including women, actively took part. The Council is currently discussing comprehensive and effective measures for the Ainu people to realize the recommendations by the Panel from 2009.
Let me draw your attention to two major projects which were entrusted to the Council’s Working Groups. The first project is the establishment of the Symbolic Space for the Ethnic Harmony, which attempts to build a national center to promote respect for and the revitalization of the life and culture of the Ainu people. The Symbolic Space will include a museum and a surrounding rich natural environment, and will function as a national and international hub for education, research and exhibitions on the Ainu culture. We particularly expect that it will contribute to passing the cultural heritage of the Ainu people to the next generation, with the aim of building a harmonious society. The Government of Japan will make efforts to realize the Symbolic Space based on the basic concept which the Working Group proposed this year.
The second project has been the nationwide research on the actual conditions of life of the Ainu people outside Hokkaido, which was conducted for the first time. Since the Working Group has just concluded its research, the Government will analyze the report to consider the necessary policy measures for the Ainu people across the country.
In conclusion, Japan is working and will continue to work closely with the Ainu people to achieve a society where the diversity of all people is respected, through various policy measures responding to the situation surrounding the Ainu people, with reference to the UN Declaration. Furthermore, Japan is committed to making efforts to tackle many issues faced by the indigenous peoples in the world, in cooperation with the United Nations and the international community.
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