Diplomatic Bluebook 2019
Japan's Foreign Policy to Promote National and Global Interests
7 Human Rights
(1) Initiatives within the UN
A UN Human Rights Council
The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006 as a restructured version of the UN Commission on Human Rights in order to strengthen the UN's ability to address human rights issues as part of a movement toward mainstreaming human rights in the UN. The Human Rights Council holds sessions throughout the year in Geneva (three regular sessions per year, lasting about ten weeks in total) to discuss issues and make recommendations concerning the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Japan served as a member of the Council from June 2006 to June 2011 (the first and the second terms) and January 2013 to December 2015 (the third term). Most recently, Japan was elected in the elections held in October 2016, and currently serves as a member of the Council from January 2017 to December 2019 (the fourth term). Japan is running for the 2019 election aiming to continue to serve as a member of the Council from January 2020.
At the high-level segment (meeting of the main representatives of each country) of the 37th Session in February and March 2018, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Manabu Horii delivered a statement. In his statement, he expressed that 2018 is the milestone year of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Japan will continue to work to protect and promote human rights worldwide. He also raised the importance of the early resolution of the abductions issue. He also stated that Japan would co-table a draft resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) together with the EU at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, and requested the understanding and support of the other countries. Furthermore, after the delegation of the Republic of Korea（ROK） mentioned the comfort women issue, he rebuffｅd the statement by the ROK and explained Japan's position on the issue.
During the same Session, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, co-tabled by Japan and the EU, was adopted without a vote (adopted for 11 consecutive years). This resolution, based on the 2017 Human Rights Council resolution, urges North Korea to take immediate steps to end all human rights violations, including the abductions issue, and recalls the 2017 UN General Assembly Resolution that emphasized serious concerns concerning the report of abductions and other human rights violations by North Korea. Furthermore, the resolution notes the importance and urgency of the abductions issue and the immediate return of all abductees, and expresses the expectation toward the resolution of all issues related to the Japanese nationals, in particular the return of all abductees, to be achieved at the earliest possible date. It also strongly encourages the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to expedite the process for strengthening its capacity decided by the Human Rights Council resolution in March 2017, and requests OHCHR to strengthen advocacy and outreach initiatives. Japan will continue to be actively engaged in discussions in the UN Human Rights Council to resolve human rights issues in the international community.
The UN Human Rights Council conducts the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that periodically reviews the human rights situations of all UN Member States. Japan was reviewed for the third time in 2017. As progress since the previous review (2012), Japan explained that it has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Hague Convention, the Palermo Convention, and the Trafficking in persons protocol as well as the measures toward realizing “a society in which all women shine” and a “society with the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens,” and Japan's wide range of efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights in the international community. Japan also explained its stance and policy concerning remarks made by each country.
B The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly
The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly is, along with the Human Rights Council, the UN's main forum focused on human rights. Generally, in October and November, the Committee discusses a wide range of issues, including social development, women, children, racial discrimination, refugees, crime prevention, and criminal justice, as well as the human rights situations in North Korea, Syria, and Iran, among others. Resolutions adopted by the Third Committee are then adopted by a plenary session of the General Assembly, contributing to the development of international norms.
Every year since 2005, Japan and the EU have co-tabled the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK at the UN General Assembly. In 2018, Japan and the EU again co-tabled the resolution at the Third Committee in November and Plenary Session in December of the 73rd session of the General Assembly, which was adopted without a vote. The content of the resolution, based on the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2017, condemns North Korea's gross human rights violations, strongly demanding an end to the violations, and noting the urgency and importance of the issue of international abductions and of the immediate return of all abductees as well as the long years of suffering experienced by abductees and their families, and expects the resolution of all issues related to Japanese nationals, in particular the return of all abductees, to be achieved at the earliest possible date. Furthermore, it strongly encourages the OHCHR to expedite the process for strengthening its capacity decided by the Human Rights Council resolution in March 2017, and requests OHCHR to strengthen advocate and outreach initiatives.
In addition, Japan also actively participated in discussions on the human rights situations in individual countries, such as Syria, Iran, Myanmar, as well as discussions on various human rights issues (social development, the rights of the child, and etc.). Japan participated actively in discussions in the international community toward protecting and promoting human rights, in cooperation with civil society, such as by dispatching a female representative of a Japanese NGO to serve as the Alternate Representative of Japan at the Third Committee of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, as it has done previously.
C 70th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948 as “a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations” without opposition by any country (48 in support, 0 in opposition, 8 abstained 2 absent). Various meetings were held in 2018 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the UDHR. At a symposium commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Commissioner for the Protection of Fundamental Human Rights system jointly held with the Ministry of Justice on December 1, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Suzuki gave a speech, demonstrating Japan's efforts for human rights diplomacy both at home and abroad, including at the UN.
D Ending Violence Against Children
In February 2018, the first-ever “Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit” was held in Stockholm jointly by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (GPeVAC) and the Government of Sweden. Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Manabu Horii attended the Summit representing Japan, and stated Japan would be actively engaged in ending violence against children, including by becoming a “Pathfinding Country.” Japan's membership of GPeVAC was approved in May 2018, and Foreign Minister Kono was appointed a member of the Board of GPeVAC. Moreover, with its contribution of 650 million yen in the FY2017 budget, Japan became the first country to contribute to the humanitarian window of the Fund to End Violence Against Children that supports the Partnership's activities, and realized humanitarian aid projects by earmarking funds to protect children affected by conflicts in Nigeria and Uganda. Japan will continue to cooperate with the international community to promote initiatives both within Japan and abroad to end violence against children.
E National Action Plan（NAP） on Business and Human Rights
Japan is committed to the implementation of the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework (UNGPs)” that was endorsed at the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council. As part of it, Japan is working toward formulating a NAP pertaining to respect for human rights in the context of business, which is becoming a new global standard for business conduct. As the first step of the NAP formulation process, Japan conducted a baseline study to capture the landscape of the existing legislation and policies regarding the protection of human rights in the course of business activities. Through formulating the NAP, Japan aims to contribute to promoting and protecting human rights in the field of business and human rights. Japan will continue to drive the process while taking into account discussions with various stakeholders.
On my selection to be a member of the Human Rights Committee
Shuichi Furuya, Professor, Waseda University
In June 2018, I was elected to be a member of the Human Rights Committee established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It was 70 years ago when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It then adopted the ICCPR in 1966 to embody the ideal of the declaration. The ICCPR obliges State Parties to guarantee rights and freedom such as rights to life, liberty and security of persons, implementation of fair trials, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, rights to participate in elections and public affairs, and equality before the law, each of which is essential for realizing democracy and rule of law.
The Human Rights Committee's main task is to review the reports on the guarantee of said rights that are submitted periodically by the States Parties to the Committee, as well as accepting and examining the petitions from victims who complain of the infringement on these rights. While the Committee is often seen as a watchdog monitoring the implementation of the ICCPR because of its aforementioned role, my understanding is that it watches over the efforts of States Parties to implement the ICCPR, gives suitable advice and encourages improvements. Human rights are universal and must therefore be guaranteed equally everywhere in the world and in all cultures, histories, and religions. Meanwhile, each country has its own political system, economic conditions and cultural traditions. I feel that working out how to promote and realize the universality of human rights, while taking such circumstances duly into consideration, makes the work of the Committee members so difficult and also so rewarding.
I met with representatives from over 140 countries in the election campaigns that lasted for four months. Through these meetings, I became keenly aware of the importance of properly listening to the voices of a wide range of stakeholders, not only the States Parties, but also victims who complain of the infringement of their human rights and members of civil society, and repeatedly engaging in persistent dialogues. Listening to the opinions of others in a sincere manner regardless of their position, and patience to pursue common understanding - those are the ways to form the foundation of democratic society as advocated by the ICCPR, and also the approach that I intend to firmly follow as a member of the Committee.
(2) Initiatives Concerning International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law
A International Human Rights Law
At the 36th Meeting of the States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights held at the UN Headquarters in New York in June 2018, an election of the members of the Human Rights Committee was held, and Japanese candidate Shuichi Furuya, professor of Waseda Law School, was elected. From 1987 to the present, Japan continuously produced members to the Human Rights Committee, and Professor Furuya is the third member from Japan. Periodic review on the status of the domestic implementation of the various human rights treaties that Japan has concluded is carefully and thoroughly examined in accordance with the provisions of the relevant treaties. Japan's periodic reports were examined by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2018, and by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances in November 2018 in Geneva.
B International Humanitarian Law（IHL)
In the intergovernmental process on IHL in Geneva, Japan participated actively in discussions on strengthening the respect for IHL. Moreover, as part of its efforts to promote awareness and understanding of IHL, MOFA dispatched a lecturer to the International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as it did in 2016 and 2017.
(3) Initiatives Undertaken via Bilateral Dialogue
In addition to initiatives within the UN and other multilateral frameworks, Japan recognizes the importance of bilateral dialogues, in order to protect and promote human rights. The 5th Japan-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue (Nay Pyi Taw) was held in February 2018, while the 9th Japan-Cambodia Human Rights Dialogue (Phnom Penh) was held in May. In addition to exchanging information on their respective initiatives in the field of human rights, the participants in these dialogues exchanged opinions concerning cooperation in multilateral fora such as the UN.
(4) Contribution to Refugee Issues
From the perspective of international contribution and humanitarian aid, Japan started accepting refugees from Myanmar who were temporarily residing in Thailand, under a resettlement program that ran from FY2010 to FY2014 (the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to a third country that agrees to accept them for long-term settlement).
In addition to accepting refugees from Myanmar who were residing temporarily in Malaysia since FY2015, the Government of Japan allowed accepting eligible family members of those who are already resettled in Japan, based on the premise of mutual aid with those who remain in Thailand. From FY2010 to FY2018, 174 people from 44 families have come to Japan under this program.
Until now, the main destinations for refugees to be accepted for resettlement have been Western countries. Japan, as the first Asian country to accept resettled refugees, has attracted both high praise and high hopes from the international community in regard to its proactive efforts to address refugee issues. While local governments in the Tokyo Metropolitan region have played a central role until now in operations concerning the resettlement destinations for refugees upon their arrival in Japan, proactive efforts are being made to resettle refugees in municipalities outside of the Tokyo Metropolitan area, from the perspective of promoting nationwide understanding of the refugee issue. From April 2018, resettlement for the eighth group commenced in Kure City in Hiroshima Prefecture and Fujisawa City in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Since the start of implementation of this method in FY2015, there have been major changes in the international situation concerning refugees. Based on such background, in order to discuss expansion of acceptance to resettlement programs, Inter-Ministerial Coordination Council for Refugee Issues decided to establish a review meeting concerning expanding acceptance programs for refugees through the resettlement in October 2018 for the purpose of discussing such issues. This review committee hears the views of experts, and holds discussions between the ministries, agencies, and experts to consider whether it is necessary to expand the acceptance, and if so, to what extent.