Statement by Dr. Yasue Nunoshiba, Special Advisor of the Government of Japan, on Item 69: The Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Seventy-Second Session of the Third Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations
October 12, 2017
“Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.” This is what the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples embraces.
2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration. While rights of the indigenous peoples have been promoted in some areas, they are still one of the most vulnerable groups in societies. They are still suffering from discrimination and social injustice, which regrettably prevent them from fully exercising their rights.
I should like to stress that all Member States have the responsibility to protect and promote indigenous peoples’ rights in accordance with the Declaration.
The Government of Japan has made efforts to develop comprehensive policies aiming to achieve a society in which dignity of the indigenous people is fully respected and their status is actively promoted.
In Japan, indigenous people called the “Ainu” live in the northern part of the Japanese Archipelago, mainly on the island of Hokkaido. The Ainu people have a unique language, as well as a distinct religion and culture.
One of the pillars of Japan’s policy on Ainu people is promotion and awareness-raising of Ainu culture. The Government of Japan has been providing assistance to various projects such as an educational program on the Ainu language. In addition, the Government also provides support for traditional ceremonies and handcraft productions. Furthermore, the Government is now developing the “Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony”, consisting of a national Ainu museum and park, as a national center for revitalizing the Ainu culture in Hokkaido. The Symbolic Space will be open in 2020, to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It will promote nationwide understanding of the history and culture of the Ainu.
Another pillar is the improvement of the living standards of the Ainu people. Local governments, with financial supports from the national government, have implemented measures such as educational assistance, employment assistance, modernization of agriculture and fisheries, and promotion of small industries.
Japan will continue to work closely with the Ainu people to achieve a society where the diversity of all people is respected.
Japan has committed itself to tackle various issues that the indigenous peoples are facing in the world. One of the principles of the Development Cooperation Charter of Japan is promoting human security which is a concept pursuing the right of individuals– especially vulnerable groups, including the indigenous peoples. Based on this principle, Japan contributed to projects such as improvement of living standards of the indigenous peoples in several countries in cooperation with the United Nations and other actors of the international community.
In September 2017, after two years of consultations, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which promotes participation of indigenous peoples at the relevant meetings of the UN bodies on issues affecting them. Japan welcomes the adoption of the resolution and the constructive and open informal dialogue between Member States and indigenous peoples, held during its seventieth and seventy-first sessions.
In order to leave no one behind under the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development, the international community needs to respect the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples and to strengthen its efforts to promote their participation in each society. Japan will always be a part of this endeavor.