Human rights should be at the centre of Japan’s international development cooperation efforts – UN Expert

GENEVA (22 July 2013) – Japan should adopt a human rights-based approach to its international development cooperation urged United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina on Friday.

“The Government should make a more explicit commitment to incorporating human rights principles into the design, implementation and monitoring of its international development cooperation policies,” said Mr. Lumina, recommending that “the Government should adopt a policy statement on human rights and development cooperation, as other leading providers of official development assistance, such as Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA have done.”

“By focusing on equality, non-discrimination, participation, empowerment, accountability and transparency, a rights-based approach would improve the sustainability and effectiveness of Japanese development cooperation,” the UN expert added.

Mr. Lumina urged the Government to strengthen existing safeguard policies of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) which are designed to avoid or mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of development projects supported by Japan. The expert also called for more transparency concerning the loan agreements concluded and export insurance provided by these institutions.

“Efforts to boost Japanese investments abroad should be sensitive to relevant international human rights standards and labour standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on foreign debt and human rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Mr. Lumina cautioned.

The expert noted that Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget has been declining in recent years.

“Compared to 1997, the ODA budget for 2013 has been cut by 52.3 per cent. In 2012, only 0.17 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) was devoted to development cooperation. This was significantly below the United Nations ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNI and the OECD DAC average of 0.29 per cent of GNI in 2012,” Mr. Lumina said.

Acknowledging the economic, fiscal and humanitarian challenges the country has faced in recent years, he urged the Government to adopt a road map for reaching the UN target.

Mr. Lumina commended the Government for establishing a framework for regular dialogue with Japanese Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) but urged it to also engage in policy dialogue with those in recipient countries and to extend support schemes available to Japanese NGOs to them. “The involvement of local NGOs in recipient countries would foster transparency and accountability in the implementation of ODA-supported projects and contribute to empowerment of local communities,” he noted.

He reminded the Government to follow-up on its commitment to establish an independent National Human Rights Institution.

His final findings and recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014.


Read his full end-of-mission statement at:

Cephas Lumina is an Advocate of the High Court for Zambia and an Extra-Ordinary Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria. He holds a PhD in international human rights from Griffith University and has extensive experience in human rights. He was appointed Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The mandate covers all countries.

Learn more, log on to:

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Japan:

For more information and media requests please contact:
Mr. Gunnar Theissen (+41 22 917 9321) or write to:
Ms. Yasuko Senoo (+81 3 546 74451 /

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:

Watch “The Riddle”: