Diplomatic Bluebook 2022
Japan Strengthening Its Presence in the International Community
7 Human Rights
There is growing international concern about the human rights situations in various parts of the world. The protection and promotion of human rights provide the foundation for peace and stability in the international community. Japan recognizes that the protection of human rights, which is a universal value, is the basic responsibility of all countries, regardless of differences in the method of achieving this goal and their cultures. While speaking out firmly against any serious violation of human rights, Japan considers, under the basic principle of “dialogue” and “cooperation,” that it is important to promote voluntary efforts through bilateral dialogues and cooperation between countries that are working toward democratization and the protection of human rights. In addition, in the area of human rights, with the standpoint of bridge-building in Asia and protection of the socially vulnerable people, Japan puts effort into improving the global human rights situation through bilateral dialogues, proactive participation in multilateral forums such as the UN, and constructive dialogues with the UN human rights mechanisms. (See the Special Feature on page 247 for Japan's basic stance on human rights diplomacy and specific examples of its efforts.)
(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 10 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 January 2017 to December 2019 (fourth term). Most recently, Japan was elected in the election 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 46th Session in February and March, Foreign Minister Motegi delivered a statement through a video message. In the statement, he spoke about Japan's continued dedication to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights in Asia and the world, stressed the importance of early resolution of the abductions issue, expressed Japan's serious concerns over the situation in China including Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and urged China to take concrete actions. He also introduced Japan's latest initiatives in the fields of business and human rights, eradication of violence against children, elimination of discrimination against leprosy, the realization of a society where the dignity of the indigenous Ainu people is respected, women's empowerment, and the protection and promotion of women's human rights. 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 the same session (adopted for 14 consecutive years). This 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 realization of the immediate return of all abductees of Japan as well as the faithful provision of accurate and detailed information to the families of victims on the fates and whereabouts of their missing relatives.
At the 48th session from September to October, Japan, as the main sponsor, submitted a resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia. This resolution was adopted without a vote. The resolution reflects the international community's concerns over the human rights situation in Cambodia, and encourages the Government of Cambodia to put effort into improving the human rights situation. In addition, it also decided the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia for two years.
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 76th session of the General Assembly, the resolution on the situation of human rights in the 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 (adopted for the 17th consecutive year). The resolution refers to the urgency and importance of the abductions issue, which involves a serious violation of human rights, and of the immediate return of all abductees, the long years of suffering experienced by abductees and their families, grave concern over the lack of any concrete or positive actions by DPRK, the realization of the immediate return of all abductees of Japan as well as the faithful provision of accurate and detailed information to the families of the victims on the fates and whereabouts of their missing relatives.
In addition, Japan participated actively in discussions in the international community toward protecting and promoting human rights, including discussions on the human rights situations in some 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.
C Ending Violence Against Children
Since 2018, when Japan participated in the Global 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, the National Action Plan to End Violence Against Children was formulated in August. This Action Plan aims to contribute to the achievement of Target 16.2 of the SDGs, which is to “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.” Japan will continue promoting efforts to end violence against children at home and abroad, in collaboration with the international community.
D Promoting the Introduction of Human Rights Due Diligence38 Through the Implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights
Japan is actively engaged in efforts toward the implementation of the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)” that was endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. As a part of these efforts, Japan has been conducting awareness-raising activities including the introduction of human rights due diligence with a view to raising awareness of human rights among business enterprises, through the steady implementation of the NAP on Business and Human Rights formulated by the Government of Japan in October 2020. Awareness-raising activities have been carried out, alongside the promotion of the concept of respect for human rights in the context of business activities through efforts such as the establishment of a portal site on the MOFA website to post videos introducing the NAP and other information, and to publish “A Compilation of Case Studies on Business and Human Rights.” In March, an Inter-Ministerial Committee was established to promote cooperation among the relevant ministries and agencies on the necessary reviews and decisions with regard to following the progress of the implementation status of the NAP. At the same time, the first roundtable meeting was held in July to facilitate dialogues among a wide range of stakeholders. As a part of the follow-up of the NAP, the “Questionnaire Survey on the Status of Efforts on Human Rights in the Supply Chains of Japanese Companies” was conducted from September to October jointly with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). In addition, the abovementioned Inter-Ministerial Committee was reorganized in December, and the first meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Policy Promotion for the Implementation of Japan's National Plan on Business and Human Rights was convened. Going forward, Japan will continue to steadily implement the NAP.
- 38 Human rights due diligence:To identify, prevent, mitigate, and address, as well as to provide information on, the impact of corporate activities on human rights.
E The Summit for Democracy
In December, the U.S. hosted the virtual Summit for Democracy. Prime Minister Kishida took part in a session. He shared and explained Japan's stance and initiatives on protecting democracy and promoting human rights around the world from the viewpoint of attaching great importance to universal values, including democracy.
(2) Initiatives Concerning International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law
A International Human Rights Law
In November, at the elections of members of the Committee against Torture held at the 18th Meeting of States parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment at the UN Headquarters in New York, Professor Maeda Naoko (Faculty of Law, Kyoto Women's University), Japan's candidate, was elected to the Committee with the largest number of votes. 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.
B International Humanitarian Law
Japan has actively been engaged in efforts for strengthening the national implementation of international humanitarian law (IHL). In May, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Uto Takashi issued a video message on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2286 on the protection of the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel in armed conflict (2016). In his message, he urged the international community to cooperate further on healthcare in armed conflict, including ensuring access to medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting medical personnel. In October, Japan participated in a regional meeting of the national IHL committees of Asia-Pacific countries, and from November to December, Japan participated in the Fifth Universal Meeting of National Committees and Similar Entities on International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Furthermore, as it does every year, Japan dispatched an instructor to play the part of the jury to the IHL Moot Court and Role Play Competitions, 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 25th Japan-EU Human Rights Dialogue was held in June (via videoconference), and the 11th Japan-Cambodia Human Rights Dialogue was held in September (via videoconference). 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. Japan also attended a workshop on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), hosted by Viet Nam, via videoconference and shared its experiences in the UPR.
(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 came to Japan under this program.
Refugees arriving in Japan live independently in their respective areas of resettlement following the completion of a six-month training program. Initially, local governments in the Tokyo metropolitan region played a central role in operations concerning the resettlement destinations for refugees. However, from the perspective of promoting a better national understanding of the refugee issue, active efforts have been made to resettle refugees in municipalities outside the Tokyo Metropolitan area since 2018.
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 2019 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. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Japan and abroad, the acceptance of refugees for FY2020 was postponed, and the appropriate time for accepting refugees is currently under consideration.
While the acceptance of resettled refugees has been done primarily by Western countries, Japan is the first country in Asia to accept resettled refugees.
This Special Feature sets out once again the aspects that Japan places particular focus on in addressing human rights issues in the international community, and introduces some of the concrete efforts that Japan has taken based on this stance.
■1. Japan's Basic Stance on Human Rights Diplomacy
Human rights and fundamental freedom are universal values, and the human rights situation in each country is a legitimate interest of the international community.
While there are differences in the method and speed at which the protection of human rights is achieved, Japan takes the stance that human rights should be respected regardless of culture, traditions, political and economic systems, and stage of socioeconomic development, and that the protection of human rights is the most basic responsibility of all countries. Based on this stance, while speaking out firmly against any serious violation of human rights, Japan takes the basic principle of “dialogue” and “cooperation” between countries that are working toward democratization and the protection of human rights. Through bilateral dialogues and multinational fora such as the UN, Japan calls for improvements to human rights issues that Japan and the international community are concerned about. At the same time, Japan also engages in necessary and feasible forms of cooperation through technical cooperation and other means, and urges such countries to make voluntary efforts.
While applying such unique contributions to the best of its ability, Japan makes no compromise on universal values and will proactively and positively promote human rights diplomacy of its own, in light of the current international situation.
■2. Concrete Efforts Toward Improving the Human Rights Situation
(1) Resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia, Japan-Cambodia Human Rights Dialogue
Cambodia is experiencing rapid economic development recently after suffering through a prolonged turmoil period. However, the international community remains concerned about its human rights situation.
At the 48th Human Rights Council session in the UN, convened from September to October, Japan drafted and submitted a resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia. This resolution reflects the voice of the international community with regard to the human rights situation in Cambodia, and in particular, expresses deep concern over the deterioration of the civil and political environment while touching on examples such as the arrests of the members of political parties and civil society. At the same time, this resolution encourages the Government of Cambodia to put effort into improving the human rights situation, and decides the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia for two years.
Japan has continued to submit this resolution since 1999, and the resolution has always been adopted by consensus (adopted without a vote).
In drafting the resolution, Japan considers that in order to improve the human rights situation in Cambodia, specific concerns need to be clearly pointed out in the resolution, and also at the same time, there must be an effort to improve the situation by Cambodia themselves. From this perspective, Japan has done its utmost to consult and coordinate with Cambodia, the EU, and other relevant countries to ensure that the resolution strikes a balance between encouraging Cambodia's efforts to improve its human rights situation based on its own conviction and consent, and monitoring and promotion of these efforts by the international community through activities in the field by the Special Rapporteur and the provision of opportunities to report to the Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, in September, the 11th Japan-Cambodia Human Rights Dialogue was held online. During the dialogue, discussions were held on efforts and issues in the area of human rights, including freedom of political activities, freedom of expression, assembly and association, and the independence of the judiciary. The Japanese side spoke candidly about the issues related to the environment for free and fair elections in Cambodia as well as the approach to activities in the civil society, and exchanged views on the cooperation in the field of human rights in the international arena.
Japan's coordination efforts in this area have been highly appraised by Cambodia and the international community, including Europe and the U.S. At the Human Rights Council session held in October, the resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia was adopted by consensus.
Japan pays close attention to the human rights situation in Cambodia, and has provided support for electoral reforms and invited young politicians to Japan, among other efforts. In FY2020, Japan allocated a part of its contributions to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) toward expenditures for activities related to improving the human rights situation undertaken by the OHCHR Cambodia country office. Along with the adoption of the resolution, Japan's efforts are expected to support and promote the Government of Cambodia to put effort into improving the human rights situation, and to bring about improvements to the human rights situation in Cambodia.
(2) Examples of Japan making its voice heard (Joint Statement – Human Rights Situation in China)
Japan is also speaking out firmly with regard to the human rights situation in China. For example, Prime Minister Kishida raised the issues of the Hong Kong situation and the human rights situation in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to President Xi Jinping at the Japan-China Summit telephone call in October. Similarly, Foreign Minister Motegi and Foreign Minister Hayashi expressed serious concerns at the Japan-China Foreign Ministers' telephone calls held in April and November respectively.
In addition to such bilateral efforts, Japan also expresses its concerns through individual statements issued at the UN and other fora. At the high-level Segment of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council held in February, Foreign Minister Motegi delivered a statement through a video message. In the statement, he expressed serious concerns over the situation in China, including Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and urged China to take concrete actions.
At the 47th Human Rights Council session convened in June, Canada delivered a joint statement on the human rights situation in China including the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on behalf of 44 countries, and Japan was the only participating country from Asia. This statement shares concerns expressed by UN Special Procedures in their statement on the alleged detention, forced labor, and transfers of Uyghurs and others. At the same time, it urges China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the High Commissioner. Furthermore, it states that the countries delivering the statement continue to be deeply concerned about the deterioration of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong under the National Security Law and about the human rights situation in Tibet.
At the Third Committee of the 76th session of UN General Assembly convened in October, France delivered a joint statement on the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on behalf of 43 countries, and Japan was the only participating country from Asia. (Note1) This statement expresses particular concerns about the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and calls on China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition, at the 16th East Asia Summit held in October and the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit held in November, both of which China also participated in, Japan expressed serious concerns about the Hong Kong situation and the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
It is important for all countries, including China, to provide guarantees for fundamental human rights. Hence, it is important for the international community to continue cooperating closely and appealing to China in this regard.
- Note1: Key points of the Statement
(1) We are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Credible-based reports indicate the existence of a large network of “political re-education” camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained. We have seen an increasing number of reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children. There are severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and the freedoms of movement, association and expression as well as on Uyghur culture. There is also widespread surveillance targeting Uyghurs.
(2) We also share the concerns expressed by UN Special Procedures and UN experts describing collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities.
(3) We thus call on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, and relevant special procedure mandate holders, as well as to urgently implement CERD's eight recommendations related to Xinjiang. We welcome the High Commissioner's announcement to present her findings to date and encourage publication as soon as possible.
(4) In view of our concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, we call on all countries to respect the principle of non-refoulement [(in principle, not repatriating foreigners to the countries or regions where they are persecuted)]. We also call on China to ratify without delay the ICCPR.
(5) We urge China to ensure full respect for the rule of law and to comply with its obligations under national and international law with regard to the protection of human rights.
(3) Examples of ODA that contribute to human rights
With a view to improving the human rights situation for people living in developing countries and regions, Japan provides support in the area of governance, including support for the development of legal systems and the strengthening of media and journalism, as well as assistance to vulnerable persons, including women, children, and persons with disabilities.
A. Developing countries have faced challenges such as underdeveloped legal systems, inadequate implementation and enforcement of laws, and barriers to information access. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in cooperation with the Supreme Court, Ministry of Justice, Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and the relevant universities, has been providing support to countries in Asia and Africa since the latter half of the 1990s, with a focus on the development and implementation of legal systems, and improvement of access to justice.
Japan began providing support to Laos for the development of its legal system in 1998. Under the “Project for Promoting Development and Strengthening of the Rule of Law in the Legal Sector of Lao PDR” (2018 to 2023), Japan is cooperating with Laos on improvements to the research and analysis of legal theories in civil laws and criminal laws, to legal education, and to training of prospective and in-service legal professionals. This Project has long provided support for the development of the first Civil Code in Laos, which was enforced in May 2020. In 2021, the Project conducted activities such as the preparation of research papers that explain the objectives and background of the civil code, and reference materials concerning law on criminal evidence. In addition, the Project conducted online seminars on topics such as sentencing and development of legal human resources to contribute to improving court practices and the thereby the protection of citizens' rights.
B. Amidst the increasing movement of people accompanying the rapid globalization of the economy and information, human trafficking is becoming a serious, cross-border human rights issue common to many countries. In particular, there are concerns over the rise in trafficking in persons in the Mekong region alongside ASEAN integration. In this regard, Japan has cooperated with Thailand, Myanmar, and other relevant countries. The “Project for Strengthening the Operation of Hotline for Counseling and Supporting Trafficked Survivors” (2018 to 2022) was also implemented in Viet Nam. The objective of this Project was to further strengthen the cooperative system between the relevant organizations. To this end, efforts have been made by operating a hotline that can serve an even larger number of people and strengthening the operation of a call center whose objective is to prevent victimization from trafficking in persons and support women and girls who are victims of trafficking in persons. In 2021, activities including holding workshops aimed at amending government ordinances and external evaluation to improve the quality of counselling were conducted. An agreement was also concluded for greater cooperation between the relevant ministries and agencies. Publicity activities were also carried out through the media. In 2021, the number of calls to the call center reached approximately 3,100 (as of the end of November), and 131 personnel (telephone counsellors, social workers, NGO officers, etc.) were nurtured under this Project.
C. In addition to the abovementioned, as of December 2021, Japan has provided support to more than 74 countries around the world, with a particular focus on Asia, in the areas of human resource development, strengthening freedom of the media, and the building and development of various systems including electoral and judicial systems.
(Examples of Japan's support)
– Strengthen capacity of the national police: Indonesia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and others.
– Improve legal and judicial system and its operation: Viet Nam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, and others.
– Improve election management capacity (including dispatch of advisors as well as training of members of electoral commissions and staff personnel at voting stations): Cambodia, Pakistan, and others.
– Provide equipment to support elections (including ballot boxes or servers to register biometrics): Pakistan, Libya, and others.
– Support capacity building of both staff and institutions for media freedom and media protection measures: South Sudan, Kosovo, Ukraine, and others.
■3. Business and Human Rights (Note2)
With the globalization of supply chains today, attention is increasingly being placed on respect for human rights in corporate activities. Business enterprises themselves face an urgent need to identify human rights risks and put in place the necessary countermeasures. There are also growing moves in Europe and the U.S. toward making it mandatory for companies to take initiatives in the area of human rights. Given that the recognition of “business and human rights” in Japan is not necessarily as widespread, Japan has been steadily implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights formulated in October 2020, and putting efforts into raising awareness to promote the introduction of human rights due diligence (identifying, preventing and mitigating, and addressing the impact of corporate activities on human rights, as well as the provision of such information) through understanding the status of initiatives by companies.
In the international arena, Japan is putting effort into strengthening peer learning (learning through mutual cooperation) in Asia through the introduction of Japan's initiatives at UN seminars and regional meetings hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. Furthermore, with the aim of addressing human rights violations in the global supply chain, Japan will work closely with the governments of a wide range of developing countries, including Asia, to promote initiatives toward the realization of responsible business conduct through means such as developing legal systems, policymaking, and improving practices. Through such activities, Japan aims to establish a more desirable international environment for the expansion of Japanese corporations overseas in an appropriate manner.
Japan considers that spreading widely across the world the movement of not engaging in business practices that could lead to the violation of human rights contributes to preventing human rights violation worldwide and to strengthening the international competitiveness of business enterprises that respect human rights.
- Note2: MOFA website on “business and human rights”: