Diplomatic Bluebook 2020

Chapter 3

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), January 2013 to December 2015 (the third term), and from January 2017 to December 2019 (fourth term). Most recently, Japan was elected in the elections held in October 2019, and currently serves as a member of the Council from January 2020 to December 2022 (fifth term).

At the high-level segment (meeting of the main representatives of each country) of the 40th Session in February and March 2019, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Tsuji delivered a statement. In his statement, he expressed Japan's intention to continue contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide based on the concept of human security. He also emphasized the importance of the early resolution of the abductions issue. In addition, he presented efforts Japan is making to improve human rights and advance democratization in Asia, and efforts to protect and promote the rights of the socially vulnerable.

During the same session, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, submitted by the EU, was adopted without a vote (adopted for 12 consecutive years). This resolution refers to the urgency and importance of the abductions issue and of the immediate return of all abductees, 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, the decision was made to extend, for a period of two-years, the steps taken to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which was decided by the UN Human Rights Council resolution in March 2017.

At the 42nd Session in September, Japan submitted a resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia, as the main sponsor of the resolution, and this resolution was adopted without a vote. This resolution reflects the concerns of the international community on the recent human rights situation in Cambodia and decided a two-year extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in Cambodia.

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 those concerning 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.

At the 74th session of the General Assembly, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), submitted by the EU and co-sponsored by Japan, was adopted without a vote at a session of the Third Committee in November and a plenary session of the UN General Assembly in December. The resolution refers to the urgency and importance of the abductions issue and of the immediate return of all abductees, the long years of suffering experienced by abductees and their families, the resolution of all issues related to the return of Japanese abductees at the earliest possible date, and to provide accurate information to the families of the victims on the fates and whereabouts of their missing relatives.

In addition, Japan also actively participated in discussions on the human rights situations in individual countries such as Syria, Iran, and Myanmar, as well as discussions on various human rights issues that include social development and the rights of the child. 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 74th session of the UN General Assembly, as it has done previously.

C Ending Violence Against Children

Since 2018, Japan has participated in the Partnership to End Violence Against Children (GPeVAC). Japan has been actively involved in Partnership activities as a “pathfinding country,” engaging in ending violence against children. As part of this effort, Japan cooperates with civil society and private companies to formulate a country-specific action plan aimed at ending violence against children. From August to October, Japan conducted the “Children's Public Comment” online to facilitate the incorporation of children's views into the action plan. Japan will continue promoting efforts to end violence against children at home and abroad, in collaboration with the international community.

D 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 UN ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework (UNGPs)” that was endorsed at the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. As part of our commitment, 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.

After conducting a baseline study in 2018 to capture the landscape of the existing legislation and policies regarding the protection of human rights in the course of business activities, in the process of the NAP formulation, Japan established a Working Group, with a view to bringing together relevant parties including those from relevant ministries and agencies, the business sector, a trade union, a bar association and academia, etc., to exchange views. Japan also established an Advisory Committee and held numerous discussions, for the purpose of obtaining views from experts on matters discussed at the Working Group, upon request from relevant ministries and agencies. In addition, Japan provided opportunities to exchange views among not only national experts but also overseas experts, including members of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Through formulating the NAP and thereby promoting responsible business activities, Japan aims to contribute to promoting and protecting human rights for society as a whole, including the international community, to enhance the trust in and reputation of Japanese companies, and help achieve and improve international competitiveness and sustainability for these companies. Japan will continue to drive the process of formulating the NAP while taking into account the views of various stakeholders.

(2) Initiatives Concerning International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law

A International Human Rights Law

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee is a subsidiary body of the UN Human Rights Council and consists of 18 independent experts. The function of the Advisory Committee is to provide expertise to the Human Rights Council, focusing mainly on studies and research-based advice. At a Human Rights Council Advisory Committee member election conducted during the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council held in September, Ms. Nakai Itsuko, the candidate from Japan and a professor at Konan University's Faculty of Law, was elected. Japan has continued to send members to the committee since 2008, when the committee began its activities, to the present: Professor Nakai is the third committee member from Japan.

Furthermore, with respect to the human rights treaties that Japan has concluded, Japan has faithfully responded to periodic reviews of government reports on the implementation status of the treaties in Japan, pursuant to the rules set forth in those treaties. In January, a government report concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child was reviewed in Geneva.

B International Humanitarian Law

Japan has been actively engaged in strengthening implementation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), including through participating in the intergovernmental process on IHL in Geneva, the final meeting for which was held in March. In October, Japan co-organized a meeting of the National IHL Committee with the Japanese Red Cross Society. At the 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held in December, Japan submitted a joint pledge with other countries toward raising awareness for and promoting the usage of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC). Japan also made its own statement concerning the importance of further disseminating IHL and strengthening its implementation, as the emergence of new technologies such as cyber warfare and lethal autonomous weapons systems is dramatically reshaping conflicts. Furthermore, as it does every year, Japan dispatched instructors to the IHL Moot Court Competition, an event organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC), as part of awareness-raising efforts for IHL.

(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 13th Japan-Iran Human Rights Dialogue was held in Tehran in January, the 6th Japan-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue in Tokyo in March, and the 10th Japan-Cambodia Human Rights Dialogue in Phnom Penh in August. While sharing information on their respective initiatives in the field of human rights, the parties to 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 had been residing temporarily in Malaysia since FY2015, the Government of Japan allowed accepting eligible family members of those who already resettled in Japan on the condition that mutual aid be provided with those remaining in Thailand. From FY2010 to FY2019, a total of 194 people from 50 families have come to Japan under this program.

While local governments in the Tokyo metropolitan region have traditionally played a central role 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, aimed at promoting a better nationwide understanding of the refugee issue. In 2018, resettlement commenced in Kure City in Hiroshima Prefecture, Fujisawa City in Kanagawa Prefecture, and in Kobe City in Hyogo Prefecture in 2019.

The international situation surrounding refugees is undergoing dramatic change. In light of this movement among the international community and to better balance the burden for the refugee problem among the international community, Japan made the decision in June to accept more refugees resettling from third countries under part of a new framework. Specifically, beginning in FY2020, Japan will now accept up to 60 refugees temporarily residing in Asia once or twice a year without restriction on their birthplace or region of residence, and any of the family members of the refugees who have already been accepted in Japan under a resettlement program.

The acceptance of resettled refugees has been done primarily by Western countries. Japan is the first country in Asia to accept resettled refugees, and this decision to accept more refugees has drawn attention from the international community as a committed effort by Japan to tackle the refugee problem.