Human Rights, Humanitarian Assistance,Refugees
Statement by Mr. Kiyoto Tsuji, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, at the High-Level Segment of the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honor to have an opportunity to make a statement before the Human Rights Council on behalf of the Government of Japan.
The international order based on fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, the rule of law and respect for international laws, is facing challenges from various quarters. On the one hand, it is the United Nations that plays a significant role for defending, maintaining and strengthening such international order. On the other hand, the goal will not be automatically achieved when you just leave it to the UN. Rather, it is necessary for governments, civil society and other actors to make concerted efforts in order to ensure that the UN system works efficiently and effectively.
The Government of Japan, in collaboration with the international community and civil society, is dedicated to leading discussion in the international community to contribute to the protection and promotion of the human rights of all people through development assistance and support for various forms of institution-building.
As a member of the Human Rights Council from the Asia-Pacific region, Japan has actively engaged in protection and promotion of human rights in the region. In the Asia-Pacific, while remarkable economic development has been achieved, there remain not a few challenges to the process of democratization and establishing stable democracies. In some countries, people still witness violations of basic rights and freedoms and suppression of human rights defenders. While every country has their respective problems – even if they may differ in degree, and even if the process and pace of improvement may differ from country to country – Japan is of the view that we should all share the same fundamental values and continue moving forward together in the same direction.
For countries and areas where governments either reject meaningful engagement with the international community, or the authorities fail to address problems, it is vital for the international community to strongly urge the authorities to change their courses of action while providing necessary support for their people. At the same time, it is also important to consider, on a comprehensive and inclusive basis, what the most effective approaches are to realize genuine improvement.
Japan is concerned about the current situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar. It is important for Myanmar to create conducive conditions for the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of displaced persons in cooperation with the UN. Japan will continue to encourage efforts by both Myanmar and Bangladesh towards overcoming various challenges and provide necessary support.
The previous resolutions on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) demonstrate that the international community continues to have grave concerns about serious human rights violations in North Korea, including the abductions of Japanese nationals by the North Korean authorities. Japan is cooperating closely with the international community and continues to urge North Korea to take concrete action towards cooperation with the international community, including for the early resolution of the abductees issue. We will continue to ask for the valuable support of the international community on this issue.
Japan is actively contributing in various ways to protection and promotion of the rights of socially vulnerable people. Based on the concept of “Human Security,” Japan has been promoting tangible efforts in order to realize a society where “no one will be left behind” through the achievement of the SDGs. Above all, “empowerment of the next generations and women” is one of the three pillars of Japan’s SDGs Model and we will continue to focus on and promote various efforts in this area.
Japan has been hosting the annual World Assembly for Women (WAW!) since 2014, as one of its efforts to achieve “A Society where Women Shine.” We will convene the fifth World Assembly for Women in Tokyo on March 23rd and 24th, with the participation of Ms. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and other leading figures from all over the world. We believe this conference will surely be a further driving force for propelling the active participation of women in societies all over the world.
Sexual violence in conflicts occurring worldwide must not be overlooked. What is of paramount significance for the international community is to end ongoing sexual violence against women, and to prevent occurrence of such crimes in the future. Japan continues to proactively tackle this issue as one of the top contributors to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Japan is also actively engaged in the area of protecting children as a pathfinding country of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, including through contribution to a related fund. This issue relates not only to our international efforts, but also to work we need to do at home. Despite the steps taken by our government, we recently witnessed horrific cases of child abuse, some of which unfortunately resulted in the deaths of the children involved. As the Government of Japan recognizes that this is a serious problem, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is demonstrating strong leadership to eliminate child abuse through urgent actions.
As we approach the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan is also continuing to increase its focus on protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.
This year, Japan is going to launch a new measure to further protect and promote the rights of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan.
In addition, recalling that Japan is the first country in Asia to accept third-country resettlement of refugees, we are in the process of further expanding the scope of refugees to be accepted through the resettlement program.
Since the head of the Republic of Korea (ROK) delegation mentioned the comfort women issue yesterday in the statement addressing this Human Rights Council session, I am afraid I find myself obliged to address the issue here today. The Government of Japan has been sincerely dealing with this issue for a long period of time. On top of that, as a result of considerable diplomatic efforts, Japan and the ROK reached an agreement in December 2015. With this agreement, both countries confirmed that the comfort women issue is resolved “finally and irreversibly,” and that Japan and the ROK will mutually refrain from accusing or criticizing each other regarding this issue in the international community, including at the United Nations. Based on the agreement, Japan has been sincerely and fully implementing all the commitments made in the agreement, such as the contribution of 1 billion yen (approximately 9.7 million dollars) to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation in 2016, which was established by the Government of the ROK. Furthermore, as the foundation provided financial support to 34 of the 47 former comfort women who were alive at the time of the agreement, and to the bereaved families of 58 of the 199 former comfort women who were deceased at the time, the agreement has been appreciated by many former comfort women. Under such circumstances, the dissolution of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation announced by the Government of the ROK last year is totally unacceptable for Japan in light of the Japan-ROK agreement. The agreement was not only confirmed between the two countries but was highly appreciated by the international community, including by Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the then Secretary-general of the United Nations. It is of great importance that the agreement is steadily implemented. In addition, we would like you to recognize that it is vital that understanding of the comfort women issue be based on objective facts, as some inaccurate information has been causing misunderstanding on the issue in the international community, including at the United Nations.
The human rights issues being discussed in the Human Rights Council are steadily growing in number and volume. We will have a review of the human rights treaty bodies in 2020, and a review of the Human Rights Council will be conducted from 2021. These reviews are required to comprehensively reassess these international human rights mechanisms, including the special procedures system and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in order to fulfill the function of protecting and promoting human rights even more efficiently and effectively, taking into account the limited resources available. Japan is a signatory of eight major human rights treaties and is implementing them in a sincere manner, undergoing periodic review by the three treaty bodies in the last six months. Based on these experiences, Japan is committed to actively leading discussions towards reform of international human rights mechanisms, while cooperating closely with each country and listening carefully to their opinions. In addition to that, Japan is running in the Human Rights Council election to be held in October this year. We would kindly appreciate your valuable support in this regard.
By taking this opportunity, I would like to recall that this year marks the centenary of the initial step taken by the international community to tackle the issue of racial discrimination at the Paris Peace Conference, with the active participation of Japan. While also recalling the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last year and the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations in 2020, Japan is determined to contribute even further to the protection and promotion of human rights, both in Japan and abroad, now and in the future, based on the concept of “human security.”
Thank you for your kind attention.