On the occasion of the visit to Japan by Louis Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the interests of Human Rights diplomacy, the Japanese government is called on to Cooperate with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Urge Asian countries to take action on Human Rights issues.
Substance of the proposal:
1) Intensifying talks with and diplomatic policies concerning the Human Rights situation in Asian countries
2) Restoring Japan to among the top 10 countries contributing to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
3) Improving the internal situation on Human Rights according to the counsel of the UN Committee for Human Rights, and accepting petitions from individuals who claim rights under Human Rights treaties.
[Tokyo: January 24, 2007]
Louis Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will visit Japan as a guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 25th (Thu) to 26th (Fri) of January. Her visit to Japan for the first time in November, 2004, was shortly after her appointment, and this visit comes two years after that. As such, the visit represents a positive evaluation of Japan and the attitude to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ideally it also represents a positive evaluation of Japanese Human Rights protection and promotion in the international community.
Kazuko Ito, Secretary-General of Human Rights Now (Tokyo), an NGO promoting human rights issues, noted on the occasion of the return of Louise Arbour to Japan, that the government of Japan will be unable to actually protect human rights in a world in which the people's human rights are violated, despite the fact that Human Rights diplomacy is an important cornerstone of the diplomatic policy of the government of Japan. She pointed specifically to the need to intensify talks and diplomatic policies on Human Rights with the Asian countries, the need to restore Japan to among the top 10 countries voluntarily contributing to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the necessity to improve the internal human rights situation according to the counsel of the UN Committee for the Human Rights, and the importance of accepting petitions from individuals who claim rights under Human Rights treaties.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on the 17th (Wed) that the visit by Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is expected to intensify the relationship with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with specific discussions covering the reform of the UN in terms of Human Rights and the efforts for Human Rights issues in the international community, including North Korea.
Japan should encourage more aggressive discussion of the Human Rights issue as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, which was established last year, and should also participate in the activities of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Japan made a voluntary pledge (refer to http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofa/gaiko/jinken_r/koken.html) on the election of the UN Human Rights Council. Japan pledged to deal with the Human Rights violations, including massive and systematic violations as a member of Council. We expect Japan to urge the effective and fair activity by the UN Human Rights Council and also to promote its voluntary pledge by working to protect and promote Human Rights in Asian countries.
The above-mentioned voluntary pledge indicates that Japan has been having talks on Human Rights issues with more than ten countries, and mentions that Japan will cooperate with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs. However, it is not explained exactly how the talks on Human Rights will help to improve the people's current situation, particularly those who are actually having their human rights seriously violated. The government of Japan should cooperate closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs to ensure that people's Human Rights are protected on a more practical level.
Meanwhile, the government of Japan is scheduled for talks on provisions for Human Rights in the international community, including North Korea. Although it is already common knowledge that the Human Rights situation in North Korea is extremely serious, there are also serious violations of Human Rights in countries, which have strong relations with Japan, such as Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines. Japan should talk more aggressively and involve itself more closely in Human Rights situations in those countries in order to stop the suffering of the people. While it is important to discuss truly effective measures to improve the Human Rights situation in North Korea in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs, including the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the measures taken should not result in violating the basic Human Rights of people living in Japan and the basic Human Rights of people living in North Korea, including the rights to food and life.
Furthermore, Japan committed itself to cooperating with the treaty bodies duly. However, the activities of the government of Japan are not sufficient at this point. Even though Japan has already received counsels from the Human Rights Committee, Social Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the Children's Rights Committee, when examining the government's reports, most of them have not been improved yet. For instance, the Committee pronounced with regret that the counsels issued after the third examination were mainly not implemented at the fourth examination for the government report (in November, 1998, CCPR/C/79/Add.102). The government of Japan should sincerely accept the counsel of each treaty body and put utmost care into ensuring the implementation of each. Considering that the system of reporting complaints by individuals allowed in the treaties for Human Rights are not accepted, this is an important subject, which has not been addressed. The measures are strongly expected to be undertaken in 2007 as part of the government's professed Human Rights Diplomacy initiative.
Lastly, although the government of Japan committed in a voluntary pledge to strengthen cooperative relations with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, there has been a cut in financial contributions to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights year after year. Therefore, it is necessary to take a drastic course. In response to the interview with Kyodo News this month (see http://asia.news.yahoo.com/070117/kyodo/d8mn61a81.html), Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner, said "Japan used to always be a very important donor country for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights" and " It is very important that Japan contributes... expressing concerns and commitments on the Human Rights issue."
Taro Aso, Minister of Foreign Affairs, pronounced on November 30, 2006 that Japan will conduct a diplomatic policy respecting Human Rights. Following the Human Rights diplomacy initiative, which is one of the most important diplomatic policies of 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a voluntary pledge as stated above at the UN Human Rights Council to support the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Despite the declaration of this resolution, Japan which was one of the top 10 donor countries, contributing US$1,624,000 in 2000, reduced this contribution level by half to US$812,000 in 2001.
Then the contribution was drastically reduced by 1/10 of its 2000 level to US$166,397 (21st), US$166,397 (20th) and US$160,396 (20th) respectively in 2004, 2005, and 2006. It is merely 0.2% of the total voluntary contribution for the office. The important role played by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is dependant on the support it receives from each member country. We expect that Japan will re-examine this attitude, expressing the necessary support to meet its resolution declaration upon the occasion of the visit of Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner, and will make efforts to return to the top 10 donor in 2008, at least.
Japan has been recognized as an economic power for a long time in the international community. Recently, the contribution to the Human Rights field has become noticeable. Human Rights Now welcomes this movement. However, why do human crises still occur? Japan should be able to contribute to the world to resolve the violations of Human Rights caused by the humanitarian issues.
Kazuko Ito, Secretary General of HRN said "Japan should be a country to lead the international community in Human Rights in the future. We expect the visit by Arbour, the UN High Commissioner, will be a step to accelerate this trend". She also stated that "It is necessary to cooperate and support usefully and financially to the UN High Commissioner when she makes efforts to improve the situation of Human Rights over the world, and to urge especially the Asian countries to strengthen the function of the UN Human Rights Council. Although Japan's term as a member of the UN Human Rights Council ends in 2008, Japan shall surely execute the voluntary pledge it professed upon its election to the Human Rights Council until then."