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UN experts say Japan has made strides on business and human rights, but must tackle systemic challenges

04 August 2023

TOKYO/GENEVA (4 August 2023) – UN experts today commended Japan’s commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and urged the government to address deeply embedded unfair gender and social norms to ensure full protection for human rights in the country.

“Inviting the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights shows the country’s commitment to promote human rights norms among the business community as part of its human rights agenda and commitment with engaging with human rights mechanisms,” said Damilola Olawuyi and Pichamon Yeophantong, who represented the Working Group on a 12-day visit to the country.

“While Japan has made important progress, such as being the second country in the Asia-Pacific region to have developed a National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights and issuing Guidelines on Respecting Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains, challenges persist,” the experts said.

The Working Group observed a high level of awareness of UNGPs among large businesses in Japan and stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to raise awareness among small- and medium-sized enterprises and the general public. To this end, it is imperative that the business community improves capacity and understanding about human rights due diligence along value chains.

In its end of mission statement, the Working Group emphasised the urgent need to address deeply embedded unfair gender and social norms to ensure protection and respect of human rights for all without discrimination. The experts urged the Government and businesses to adopt initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, and safeguard the rights of at-risk groups, including women, Indigenous Peoples, Buraku people, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and LGBTQI+ persons. They welcomed positive practices adopted by local governments to tackle discrimination against marginalised communities.

During the visit, the Working Group examined issues including harassment and sexual abuse in the media and entertainment industry, challenges regarding the treatment of foreign workers under the Technical Intern Training Program, and the Fukushima Daiichi power station’s clean-up and decommissioning efforts.

“As Japan makes progress on business and human rights, the Working Group eagerly expects increased efforts to foster a fair and more inclusive society, including through the establishment of a national human rights institution,” the experts said.

They engaged with representatives from the Government, businesses, trade unions, and civil society in Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi, Sapporo, and Fukushima during their visit.

The Working Group’s final report, including its findings and key recommendations, will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2024.

The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its current members are: Mr. Damilola Olawuyi (Chairperson), Mr. Robert McCorquodale (Vice-Chairperson), Ms. Pichamon Yeophantong, Ms. Fernanda Hopenhaym, and Ms. Elżbieta Karska.

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Group reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 (resolution 17/4), provide the authoritative global standard for action to safeguard human rights in a business context, clarifying what is expected by governments and companies to prevent and address impacts on human rights arising from business activity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Japan

For additional information and media requests please contact the Working Group Secretariat:

In Tokyo (during the dates of the visit): email Krizel Patolot Malabanan at [email protected] and Sonia Cuesta at [email protected] CC: [email protected]

In Geneva: email Krizel Patolot Malabanan [email protected] and Sonia Cuesta at [email protected] CC: [email protected]

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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