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  4. December 2003 - Volume 34
  5. The 55th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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FOCUS December 2003 Volume 34

The 55th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Osaka Liaison Conference for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10-11 December 2003 in Osaka city.

The two-day program reviewed the activities in Japan organized in accordance with the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), and discussed the need for a second Decade. The discussions dealt with the relationship between human rights education and corporate social responsibility, community organizing, local government programs, and school education. Japanese and foreign guests presented experiences on each issue.

The first day had a plenary session with a presentation on the Decade by Mr. Kenzo Tomonaga, Secretary General of the Osaka Liaison Conference. He stressed the need to further develop human rights education in Japan, and to further promote it globally through the second Decade. He also presented the Osaka Appeal which requests "all governments, along with the United Nations, [to] review the progress made during the Decade since January1995 and begin deliberations on launching a second Decade as soon as possible."

Separate meetings were subsequently held with presentations from the European Union (Dr. Michael Reiterer, Deputy Head/Minister, Delegation of the European Commission in Japan), Germany (Dr. Hans Hesselmann, Director of Nuremberg City's Human Rights Office), and the Philippines (Ms. Jane Austria, an NGO community organizer).

On the second day, a symposium was held with a panel discussion by the foreign and Japanese resource persons. The symposium discussed the role of human rights education in the 21st century based on the Decade. The presentations focused on the challenges facing human rights education at the global, regional and national levels, and the role of the corporate sector, the government (national and local), the schools, and the local communities.

The presentations stressed the following:

  1. The UN is now at the stage of reviewing the achievements made under the Decade and discussing further steps to take. The proposal to have a second Decade will facilitate the continuation of efforts to develop government human rights education pro-grams;
  2. National human rights education programs (such as the one in Japan) need to stress human rights concept as it is and not to interpret it merely as moral principle. The idea of "right" has to be clarified and better understood by the society as a whole;
  3. Corporate social responsibility is in fact a good way of doing business. Nevertheless, practical difficulties brought by the tight competition in the market (that often leads to exploitation of workers and environment in countries offering cheap labor to attract foreign investments) must be overcome;
  4. Children have to strengthen their self-esteem as a basis for understanding their human rights. This is especially true for children who suffer from human rights violations such as discrimination; and
  5. People empowerment is a key component for realizing human rights. It should be a basic objective of human rights education programs.

The two-day program was mainly attended by member-organizations of the Osaka Liaison Conference (Osaka Prefectural government, Osaka City government, Buraku Liberation League Osaka Branch, Industrial Federation for Dowa and Human Rights Issues (Osaka), Osaka Dowa Association of Religious Organizations, educational organizations, and community associations), citizens and students.

For further information, please contact: Mr. Kenzo Tomonaga, Secretary -General of the Osaka Liaison Conference for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Director, Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute, 1-6-12 Kuboyoshi Naniwa-ku, Osaka 556-0028 Japan, ph (816) 6568-7337; fax (816) 6568-0714; e-mail:;