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  5. Prefectural Policy Change and Human Rights Work:The Case of HURIGHTS OSAKA

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FOCUS June 2008 Volume 52

Prefectural Policy Change and Human Rights Work:The Case of HURIGHTS OSAKA

With a new Prefectural Governor, the policy of the Osaka prefectural government on human rights and other issues changed drastically. The newly-elected Governor Toru Hashimoto, acting on a campaign promise before the February 2008 elections, went on with the drive to slash financial support for programs and institutions that he did not consider relevant to the daily life of the people in the prefecture.[1]

The beginning

The establishment of HURIGHTS OSAKA reflected the wish of a Japanese United Nations officer[2] who, in 1982, urged the establishment of a human rights information center based on the strength of the "people and the local governing bodies."

Both the prefectural and city governments in Osaka sponsored the establishment of HURIGHTS OSAKA, making it the third member of local-government-supported institutions - LIBERTY OSAKA (a human rights museum) and PEACE OSAKA (a peace museum) - that bear the name "OSAKA" to indicate its location. Another city in the prefecture (Sakai city) later also provided support to HURIGHTS OSAKA.

The civil society composed of human rights organizations, labor unions and religious groups that support human rights provided counterpart fund for the trust fund of HURIGHTS OSAKA. The corporate sector also contributed to the trust fund.

The financial issue

While the financial problem of the Osaka prefectural and city governments has been well-known for several years now, there was no expectation that a solution to this problem would consist of sudden withdrawal of financial support to institutions that were working on human rights and other fields (culture, education and sports).

The identification of institutions to be subjected to withdrawal of financial support came out unexpectedly and seemed to have been decided during the elections campaign period.

There was no proper process of discussing the merit of the institutions that would suffer financial problems, nor serious consideration of their existing programs and activities.

The Osaka Gender Equality Foundation (popularly known as DAWN Center[3], which enjoys the support of many women's organizations in Osaka, may have to stop much of its programs with the withdrawal of financial support. Thousands of local supporters signed petition-letters asking Governor Hashimoto to spare the DAWN Center from a possible closure.

HURIGHTS OSAKA is much in the same situation. As a much smaller institution, it cannot match the number of local supporters of DAWN Center but it has nevertheless the support of many individuals and organizations in Japan and other countries.

The final decision

The final decision of the prefectural government on the fate of financial support for human rights institutions in Osaka will be made when the prefectural legislative assembly adopts the final financial plan of Governor Hashimoto within the year.

The prefectural government has already adopted a plan to reduce the annual financial support for the human rights institutions from the second half of the current fiscal year (August 2008-March 2009 period).

The future

The almost certain cessation of annual financial subsidy from the Osaka local governments provides a new chapter in the life of HURIGHTS OSAKA. The Board of Trustees of HURIGHTS OSAKA decided on 25 June 2008 to use its trust fund for the center's operations starting in April 2009, subject to its approval of a new budget plan before the start of the next fiscal year and the amendment for this purpose of HURIGHTS OSAKA charter as a foundation. In this context, HURIGHTS OSAKA faces the challenge of continuing to achieve its objectives under a new system.


1. For a media account of the issue see Eric Jonhston, "Hashimoto's cost-cutting plans under fire," The Japan Times in http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080328f1.html

2.He is the late Yo Kubota who died on a United Nations mission in Africa in 1989.

3.The Osaka Gender Equality Foundation manages the facility owned by the Dawn Center.

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