Statement by Ms. Kaori Maruya
Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
Durban, South Africa, September 2, 2001
Foreign Minister Zuma,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure and honor to represent the Government of Japan at this epoch-making World Conference. I would like to pay particular tribute to the Government of South Africa and High Commissioner Mary Robinson for giving us an opportunity to unite under the cause of "equality, justice, and dignity."
This World Conference is hosted by South Africa, who won the struggle against apartheid. When I think about the significance of their triumph, I feel humbled at the enormous task that lies ahead of us.
Despite a twenty-seven year long incarceration, former President Nelson Mandela never lost his hope and belief that human dignity will prevail over racism. The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is highly acclaimed for its unbiased review of the past. This shows us a road map for the elaboration of a truly coexistent society. I believe this achievement was made possible thanks to the spirit of tolerance, a spirit advocated by President Mandela.
In this World Conference, we should make future-oriented discussions to come up with practical and effective measures to fight-against discrimination. To achieve this goal, the outcome document should be adopted by consensus of all countries. Japan is willing to make every effort to make this possible.
Let me now explain the situation of Japan and the principles we uphold. Building from our deep remorse over our past colonial rule and aggression, Japan is determined to eliminate self-righteous nationalism, promote international cooperation and, thereby, advance the principles of peace and democracy throughout the world. The Government of Japan firmly maintains this recognition of history and requires that schoolchildren understand through history education that World War II caused disaster to all humankind.
The Constitution of Japan which was promulgated in 1946 established respect for fundamental human rights as an important principle. The Constitution stipulates that all the people are equal under the law, and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin.
Based on the above principles, we have been fighting against various forms of discrimination based on race and other reasons in Japan, which include; the people of Dowa regions, who have been historically discriminated; the Ainu people, who have maintained their ethnic identity; Korean residents, the majority of whom came to reside in Japan during 36 years of Japan's rule. Improvement has been certainly seen, but discriminatory attitudes toward those people still exist among individuals in daily life. A gender-equal society is another goal to be achieved.
In addition, there are reported incidents of human rights violation against foreigners among individuals including discriminatory treatment, often due to the difference in language and culture and lack of mutual understanding.
Recognizing the urgent need for solutions, Japan has been striving to break a vicious circle of prejudice, discrimination and poverty through legislative and administrative measures. Human rights education and awareness-raising campaigns are particularly important in eliminating prejudice. Social and grassroots activities by NGOs also play an important role in this connection.
The Government of Japan is making efforts to develop measures on remedies for those who are discriminated based on various grounds. The Government intends to take additional remedial measures for Hansen's disease patients who have experienced extremely severe prejudice and discrimination. On the institutional level, a proposal to establish an independent Human Rights Committee in Japan is being discussed to provide relief measures with effective investigatory procedure and remedial methods.
On this auspicious occasion, I hereby declare that the Japanese Government is firmly resolved to fight against discrimination and to continue to make efforts to achieve a society in which each person is respected as an individual and can fully realize his or her own human potential. These efforts are not limited to Japan, but should be extended to the rest of the world.
Japan attaches great importance to the concept of human security in eliminating discrimination from the world. This concept was developed to deal with the difficulties confronting the vulnerable in an increasingly globalized world from the viewpoint of ensuring the survival and dignity of individuals wherever they live. The fight against racism and discrimination, I believe, requires this human-centered approach. We should feel the pain and alleviate the suffering of those who are discriminated, and ensure that they can pursue their lives with dignity and free from fear and want. From the viewpoint of enhancing human security, Japan is committed to intensify its efforts to fight against discrimination through cooperation with other states, international organizations, and every member of the civil society.
Most cruel form of human rights violation and discrimination has been experienced by people during conflicts instigated by racial and ethnic animosities. In the face of the enormous devastation and violence, reconciliation is easy to say but hard to achieve. I believe that coexistence and tolerance will be clues toward the global peace and prosperity. We should endeavor to accept those who are different from us, respect difference, and live together in harmony. Then eventually, reconciliation will be achieved. To this goal, every one of us should ask ourselves critically whether we are truly free from any sentiment of discrimination.
The way ahead of us is far and difficult. With solid conviction and resolve, however, I am sure that we shall overcome the evil of discrimination and create a truly coexistent society which tolerates and respects difference and diversity.
Thank you very much.
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