Global Civil Society Series: Fundamental Human Rights and International Human Rights Standards

Update: February 1, 2021


On January 15th, as part of the undergraduate course Global Civil Society (Prof. Katsuhiko Mori: International Relations), the second open lecture of this series was held. The special guest for this lecture was Mr. Hideaki Nakagawa, the Executive Director of Amnesty International Japan, who spoke about "Fundamental Human Rights and International Human Rights Standards: Current Situation and Issues," and attended by about 90 students.

During Mr. Nakagawa's presentation, he talked about how Amnesty International was founded on the basis of liberating "prisoners of conscience" and continues to work towards this goal. He discussed fundamental human rights, new human rights, the international frameworks in place to protect these human rights, and finally, discussion about the current situation and issues within Japan.

On the topic of fundamental human rights, Mr. Nakagawa explained that these human rights are inalienable, and that all are entitled to these rights by simply being human. Human rights are intended to evolve over time to meet our changing society. The introduction of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, was provided as an example of this evolution. Additionally, in 2020, the Japanese government began formulating an action plan based on those principles, but debate began over this action plan as several problems were identified. Issues within Japan, such as occasional difficulty in accessing remedy, the lack of a national human rights institution, the lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, and the lack of ratification of both the United Nation's Optional Protocol on the Abolition of the Death Penalty and the Convention on Migrant Workers' Rights were all identified in the debate.


Comments and Thoughts from Participants:

- At ICU, where our journey of speaking about human rights begins during the matriculation ceremony where we all pledge to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are many chances for us to discuss human rights. But on the topics of liberal and social rights, LGBTQ issues and climate justice, I felt that more work needs to be done to address these topics comprehensively.

- I was shocked to hear that Japan does not have a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. Although there are some individual laws, it is possible that these laws being distinct could possibly lead to more discrimination. I was deeply impressed by the statement that in order to change the status quo, "we must push our politicians to act."

- Although I believe that we need to work on eliminating issues of discrimination against groups such as burakumin and should have laws in place to protect immigrant workers, I believe that the topic of the abolition of the death penalty is still quite controversial in Japan.

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