Statement by Ms. Yaeko Sumi
Alternate Representative of Japan
item 66: Rights of indigenous peoples
67th Session of the General Assembly
22 October 2012
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 resolutions calling for the recognition of the Ainu as indigenous people and the establishment of comprehensive policies for them. Responding to the resolutions, 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 Council for Future Ainu Policy, consisting of several high-level experts, including a representative of the Ainu people. In July 2009, the Advisory Council 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 former Advisory Council.
Let me draw your attention to two major projects on which the Council’s Working Groups have reported. 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 to revitalize the life and culture of the Ainu people. The Symbolic Space will include a museum, traditional houses and studios, surrounded by rich natural environment, and will function as a national and international hub for education, research and exhibitions on the Ainu culture. We expect that it will contribute to passing the cultural heritage of the Ainu people to the next generation. This July the Government of Japan decided the Master Plan for the Symbolic Space, and will make efforts to realize this project with a view to establish a harmonious society.
The second project is the nationwide research on the actual conditions of life of the Ainu people outside Hokkaido, which was conducted for the first time. The research revealed that there are still existing gaps in income and education between the Ainu people outside Hokkaido and other Japanese citizens. The Government of Japan is now studying effective policy measures to address this issue. Madam Chair,
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 other actors of the international community.
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