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  5. WPHRE and Human Rights Education Law in Japan:Implications for the Japanese Local Governments[1]

 
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FOCUS September 2009 Volume 57

WPHRE and Human Rights Education Law in Japan:Implications for the Japanese Local Governments[1]

Kenzo Tomonaga

Human rights education and human rights awareness- raising play a vital role in promoting human rights and in eliminating all forms of discrimination including Buraku discrimination.

Eight years have passed since the Law on the Promotion of Human Rights Education and Human Rights Awareness-Raising (LPHREA) was enacted in Japan,[2] while almost five years have passed since the United Nations started both the World Programme for Human Rights Education (WPHRE) and the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) in January 2005.

The Japanese government has been issuing since 2002 its annual White Paper on Human Rights Education and Awareness- Raising that describes various human rights education activities and initiatives undertaken in each year. However, the Japanese local governments have not issued such reports yet. In this context, the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute (BLHRRI) surveyed the local governments regarding the implementation of their commitments under LPHREA, WPHRE and UNDESD. This paper provides a synopsis of the survey findings and a number of proposals for the future.[3]

Survey Findings

BLHRRI sent a survey questionnaire to each of the 1,870 local governments in Japan in September 2007. 1,450 local governments (77.5% of the total) sent valid responses.

The survey questionnaire covered training programs, and specific plans. For LPHREA, the questionnaire also covered local government supporting structure and reporting of activities undertaken; and for WPHRE and UNDSD, specific plans for Dowa education and awareness-raising.

The responses of the local governments are summarized into the following:
A. Activities and initiatives made by local governments regarding LPHREA

  1. Training and publicity activities based on LPHREA
    Almost half (715 or 49.3%) of the responding local governments said that they offered training programs for local government employees, while another half (734 or 50.6%) said 'No'. One local government did not respond to this question.
    Less than half (672 or 46.3%) of the local governments said that they offered training programs for teachers, while a slightly more than half (756 or 52.1%) said 'No.' Four local governments did not respond to this question.
    Slightly more than half (768 or 53.0%) of the local governments said they held public information activities on LPHREA for local residents, and less than half (678 or 46.7%) said 'No.' Four local governments did not respond to this question.
  2. Plans based on LPHREA
    This is the most important item among the questions in the survey. Among all local governments that responded, 234 (16.2%) said "Yes, we have a plan based on LPHREA," 192 (13.2%) said "We have a plan which is considered to be based on LPHREA," and 1,021 (70.4%) said "No, we do not have such a plan yet." Five local governments did not respond to this question.
    From among the 426 local governments that responded that they have either a plan based on LPHREA or considered to be based on it, two prefectures (Hyogo Prefecture and Oita Prefecture) said that they have both. From these confused responses of two prefectures, we may conclude that only 424 out of 1,870 local governments (22.7%) have specific plans based on LPHREA.
  3. View of local governments without any plans yet
    Among the local governments that do not have such a plan yet, 107 (10.5%) said that they would be formulating a plan based on LPHREA, 298 (29.2%) said that they were currently considering making such a plan, and 608 (59.5%) said that they do not have such an intention. Eight local governments have no response on this point.
  4. Government structure to promote the LPHREA-based plan
    The second important aspect in promoting human rights education and awareness-raising by local governments is that they have an official structure or a task force to promote the LPHREA-based plan. Among the local governments that have LPHREA-based plans, 299 (70.4%) have such a task force, while 120 (28.4%) do not have such plan. Five local governments did not respond to this question.
  5. Promotion structure including academic experts and representatives of local residents for the implementation of LPHREA- based plans
    Among the local governments that have LPHREA-based plans, 257 (60.5%) have promotion structures that include academics and local residents, while 161 (38.1%) do not include them. Six local governments did not respond to this question.
  6. Reports on t he implementation of plans based on LPHREA
    Among the local governments that have LPHREA-based plans, 72 (16.9%) have published reports on the implementation of such plans, while 341 (80.5%) have not done so. Eleven local governments did not respond to this question.

B. Efforts made by local governments regarding WPHRE

  1. Training and publicity on WPHRE
    To the question on whether or not they have offered training programs on the WPHRE for local government employees, 82 local governments (5.7%) said 'Yes,' and 1,322 (91.1%) said 'No.' Forty-six local governments did not respond to this question.
    134 local governments (9.2%) said that they have training program on WPHRE for teachers, while 1,276 (88.0%) said that they have no such training program. Forty local governments did not respond to this question.
    Also, 81 local governments (5.6%) said that they have conducted public information activities on WPHRE for local residents, while 1,349 (93.0%) said that they have not done so. Twenty local governments did not respond to this question.
  2. Plans based on WPHRE
    Among the local governments that have responded, 10 (0.7%) said, "we have a plan directly based on WPHRE," 45 (3.1%) said "we have a plan which is considered to be based on WPHRE," and 1,384 (95.4%) said, "we do not have any such plans yet" (eleven local governments did not respond to this question). Thus, only 55 local governments have plans either directly based on or considered to be based on WPHRE.
  3. View of local governments without any plans yet
    Among the local governments that said that they do not have such a plan yet, 22 (10.5%) said that they are going to formulate a plan based on WPHRE, 232 (24.0%) said that they were considering adopting such a plan, and 1,023 (73.9%) say that they do not have such an intention. Seven local governments did not respond to this question.

C. Efforts made by local governments regarding UNDESD

  1. Training and publicity on UNDESD
    To the question on whether or not they have offered training programs on the UNDESD for local government employees, 46 local governments (3.2%) said 'Yes,' while 1,373 (94.7%) said 'No', and 31 gave no response. 68 l ocal governments (4.7%) said that they have had training programs on UNDESD for teachers, while 1,339 (92.3%) said that they do not have such a program. Forty-three local governments did not give a response.
    Also, 51 local governments (3.5%) said that they have conducted public information activities on UNDESD for local residents, while 1,372 (94.6%) said that they have not done so. Twenty-seven local governments did not give a response.
  2. Plans based on UNDESD
    Among the local governments that have responded, 4 (0.7%) said "we have a plan directly based on UNDESD," 28 (3.1%) said "we have a plan which is considered to be based on UNDESD," 1,393 (95.4%) said "we do not have any such plans yet," with 25 local governments not giving a response to this question. Among t hose local governments that have no such plans yet, 7 (0.5%) said, "we are going to formulate a plan based on UNDESD, 292 (20.9%) said "we are currently considering about such a plan," and 1,082 (77.6%) saidthat they do not have such an intention. Seven local governments did not give a response to this point.

D. Guidelines and basic plans for Dowa education

As the recommendation from the Area Improvement Measures Council rightly pointed out in May 1996, it is necessary to create and expand human rights education based on the many years of Dowa education experiences. It must be noted also that 1) Buraku discrimination still exists; 2) it is important to study deeply about the Buraku discrimination issue; and 3) Dowa education should be situated as a vital pillar of human rights education in view of the leading role it historically plays for the advancement of human rights education.
From such a viewpoint, we asked whether local governments have basic plans and/or policies for Dowa education. 296 (20.4%) responded 'Yes,' while 1,137 (78.4%) said 'No' and 17 did not respond. Among local governments that have no such plans/policies, 24 (2.1%) are going to formulate such a plan/ policy, 230 (20.2%) are currently considering adopting such a plan, 875 (77.0%) do not have such an intention, and 8 gave no response.

Future Issues

The following issues have to be considered in the call for more commitment and action in the years to come:

  1. Local governments should offer training programs for their employees and teachers, and conduct public information activities for local residents on such initiatives as LPHREA, WPHRE and UNDESD so that their significance would be more widely recognized.
  2. All local governments should formulate plans based on these initiatives.
  3. Local governments that already have plans should publicly report on the status of their implementation on a regular basis.
  4. All local governments should establish a task force for the promotion of these plans and actions consisting of the governor/mayor and all section representatives, and which should hold meetings on a regular basis.
  5. All local governments should set up an advisory body consisting of academic experts and representatives of local residents (including those representing the discriminated-against). The advisory body should hold meetings regularly to come up with proposals for the formulation and improvement of the plan.
  6. The local government plan should include concrete programs for the solution of various human rights issues including the Buraku discrimination issue.
  7. The local government plan should include programs for human rights education and awareness-raising in all places including the school, community, home, and the workplace.
  8. The local government plan should include human rights training programs for public officials and professionals such as government employees, teachers, police officers, medical and welfare practitioners who are deeply engaged in human rights issues.
  9. Local governments should formulate plans and programs for concrete human rights issues such as basic plans/programs for Dowa education and awareness-raising along with human rights education and awareness-raising plans/ programs.
  10. Grassroots movements should be built up to promote LPHREA, WPHRE and UNDESC with the participation of wide-ranging organizations, groups and individuals.

Mr. Kenzo Tomonaga, the former Director of the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute, is now a member of the Board of Directors of the institute.

For further information, please contact: Mr. Kenzo Tomonaga, c/o Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute, 1-6-12, Kuboyoshi, Naniwa-Ku, Osaka City, Japan 556-0028; ph (816) 6568 0905; fax (816) 6568 0714; e-mail: udhr@blhrri.org; www.blhrri.org

Endnotes

1.Professor Yasumasa Hirasawa of Osaka University translated this article from Japanese language into English language.

2.The English translation of LPHREA is available at http://blhrri.org/blhrri_e/news/new117/new11701.html

3.The full report on the survey findings is available in Japanese language at http://blhrri.org/kenkyu/data/survey_on_HRE/index.htm


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