Statement on the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights Published by the Japanese Government
On October 16, 2020 the Japanese government published the “National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-2025” (the “NAP”). The background behind the development of the NAP is the concern about the adverse human rights impacts on workers, communities, consumers, and other individuals, caused by business enterprises through their transnational commercial activities. In 2011, the United Nations endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the “UNGPs”) as an international framework to address the issues of “business and human rights.” The UNGPs have established the State duty to protect human rights and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. The UNGPs also sought for States and business enterprises to establish the availability of grievance mechanisms. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) welcomes the NAP in the following aspects which will help resolve the business-related human rights issues in Japan:
- The initiatives to protect human rights, which have been implemented discretely by the respective relevant ministries and agencies, are sorted out in the context of “business and human rights.”
- The ministries and agencies that are to be responsible for implementing each measure are specified.
- Ensuring the consistency of the policy implemented by each relevant ministry and agency is defined as a “priority area.”
Meanwhile, however, there are some problems with the NAP published this time. First, there is no indication of the Government having adequately attempted to analyze what is missing in the current legal system and policies even though such analysis should be the major presupposition to design any national action plan. Second, the NAP does not reflect sufficiently those matters which the JFBA and other stakeholder members of the Working Group unanimously agreed to address specifically in the NAP—for instance, the NAP provides almost no concrete means regarding the major issue of the human rights abuses in supply chains. Third, there is no reference to establishing a domestic human rights institution that should play a crucial role in facilitating access to remedies and implementing the NAP.
The NAP highlights that “[The Government] will set up a mechanism to promote constant dialogue grounded in trust between the relevant ministries/agencies and stakeholders.” Accordingly, the JFBA requests that the “mechanism” be instituted immediately. We are also proactively and effectively committed to providing follow-up, presenting information, and monitoring the progress of the NAP in the “mechanism” through the continuous dialogue between the relevant ministries/agencies and stakeholders.
December 2, 2020
President, Japan Federation of Bar Associations