Statement Concerning Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the “Committee”) considered the third periodic report of Japan on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (hereinafter called the “Covenant”) at its meeting held on April 30, 2013, and issued its concluding observations on May 17, 2013. Japan, which has ratified the Covenant, is under an obligation to implement the Covenant as well as to improve the matters indicated by the Committee.
The concluding observations made recommendations on 31 issues facing Japan, namely, discrimination, labor, social security, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident, education, and others. The JFBA believes that the following items are of particular significance:
First, in the recommendations, Japan was again urged to “take the necessary measures to give the Covenant full effect in its domestic legal order” and it was pointed out that Japan’s minimum core obligations to achieve full realization of the Covenant rights should be implemented as expeditiously as possible. In addition, Japan was called on to “ensure that the curricula at the Legal Training and Research Institute of Japan as well as the training programmes for judicial professionals and lawyers adequately cover the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights.” (Item 7)
Second, Japan was urged to “expedite the establishment of a national human rights institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.” (Item 8) This recommendation was made in the previous concluding observations as well, and the JFBA has been strongly calling for such establishment for some time.
Third, Japan was urged to resolve a wide range of gender discrimination issues, namely, “to carry out awareness-raising campaigns to change the society’s perception of gender roles”; “to educate girls and boys about equal career opportunities” in the labor market; “to adopt bolder goals, targeting both men and women in the Basic Plans for Gender Equality,” and implementing measures, such as quotas, in the fields of education, employment and political and public decision-making (Item 13); “to raise awareness of the illegality of the application of different rates for men and women for work of equal value,” and so on. (Item 19)
Fourth, regarding the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident, the following was recommended: “to adopt a human rights based approach to disaster response, risk mitigation and reconstruction efforts,” and in particular, to “ensure that disaster management plans do not discriminate or lead to discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.” (Item 24) Japan was further recommended to ensure “transparency on issues relating to the safety of nuclear power installations and step up its preparedness to nuclear accidents,” in particular, “to provide the population with comprehensive, credible and accurate information on potential hazards, preventive measures and response plans, and to ensure prompt disclosure of all information when disasters occur.” (Item 25)
Additionally, the following recommended issues are clearly important: regarding “cuts to budget allocations for social assistance,” including cuts for public welfare benefits, Japan was called on to “ensure that retrogressive measures are taken only in the context of the full use of the maximum available resources”, and also to “monitor the impact of social benefits cuts on the recipients’ enjoyment of the Covenant rights” (Item 9); Further, Japan was requested to “introduce a minimum guaranteed pension in the national pension system” and to ensure that applicants for public welfare benefits “are treated with dignity” (Item 22); Moreover, Japan was called on to adopt “a revised Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities in all aspects of employment and also establishing the obligation to provide reasonable accommodation in the workplace when required” (Item 12); was urged to review provisions which are discriminatory towards women, children born out of wedlock, and so on (Item 10); Japan was also called on to “ensure that the tuition-waiver program for high school education is extended to children attending Korean schools” immdediately (Item 27); In addition to the above, Japan was recommended to take all necessary measures to “guarantee the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by ‘comfort women’” and to “educate the public on the exploitation of ‘comfort women’ so as to prevent hate speech and other manifestations that stigmatize them.” (Item 26)
The Japanese government should sincerely make every effort to realize these recommended items of the concluding observations. The JFBA shall also strive to put forward its best efforts to realize the recommendations through a process of constructive dialogue with the national government and related institutions.
May 27, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations