Week of 19 October 2020
Title for ‘Third National Action Plan in Asia’ goes to Japan — but staying on the podium will depend on future implementation efforts
The Japanese government released its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP), culminating a four-year development process. Japan is the third Asian country to complete a NAP, joining South Korea and Thailand. Civil society organisations welcomed the NAP but critiqued it as “inadequate,” pointing out that it “must overcome a multitude of issues” and that its effectiveness “depends on future efforts” to implement it.
What is a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights?
- A National Action Plan on business and human rights is defined as an “evolving policy strategy developed by a State to protect against adverse human rights impacts by business enterprises in conformity with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).”
- More and more countries are developing NAPs on business and human rights to align policy priorities throughout the government, give structure to their commitments on human rights and, in some cases, to bring international principles within the domestic legal framework. According to GlobalNAPs.org, a helpful database of all current and planned NAPs maintained by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, so far 26 governments have published a NAP and 17 are in the process of developing one. The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights provides guidance for States developing NAPs here.
What is included in Japan’s NAP?
- The Japanese government launched the NAP development process in 2016 as part of its country-wide action plan to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The process was driven by the government, with input from a multistakeholder Working Group including representatives of government agencies, business, a trade union, and civil society organisations.
- According to an unofficial translation by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the government identifies five priority areas for implementation between 2020 and 2025:
- Promoting government understanding and awareness of business and human rights, including through legislation and policy consistency;
- Promoting company understanding of business and human rights and awareness of relevant laws and measures, with a particular focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises;
- Promoting public understanding and awareness of human rights;
- Driving companies to identify and address their human rights impacts in their own organisation, as well as in domestic and overseas supply chains through existing disclosure requirements. The Japanese government also commits to “work towards establishing a concrete system to promote companies’ efforts towards respecting human rights.”
- Establishing and strengthening judicial and non-judicial access to remedy for people harmed by companies.
What are stakeholders saying?
A group of 16 Japanese civil society organisations (including Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center, Amnesty International Japan, Save the Children Japan, Human Rights Now, and others) released a statement in response to the NAP calling for stronger measures to protect human rights. Some of their key critiques are listed below:
- “Although the 30-page NAP contains some statements related to these requests, many of them just maintain the status-quo due to a lack of adequate gap analysis between current measures and human rights issues on the ground.”
- “The discussion on national human rights institutions, which has been frequently mentioned in international human rights treaty reviews and is considered to play an important role in access to remedies in the UNGPs, is also insufficient.”
- “Whether policies in line with the UNGP will be realized depends on how the NAP is implemented in the future, how it is monitored by appropriate indicators, and how serious and transparent discussion takes place in the revision process.”