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Human Rights Watch’s correspondence with JICA

February 14, 2014

Minister for Foreign Affairs  Fumio Kishida

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

Kasumigaseki 2-2-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8919 Japan


President Akihiko Tanaka

Japan International Cooperation Agency

Nibancho Center Building 5-25

Niban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8012  Japan


Re: JICA and Foreign Ministry’s human rights practices and policies


Dear Foreign Minister Kishida and JICA President Tanaka,

I am writing to you on behalf of Human Rights Watch with questions concerning JICA and Foreign Ministry’s human rights policies and practices. Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization that monitors and reports on human rights in over 90 countries, including Japan. Our work includes research on the exploitation of children, the mistreatment of women, and the failure of governments to protect refugees, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. We press for accountability for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity; report on abuses from terrorism and government efforts to counter terrorism; urge corporations to be responsible for upholding human rights; and work to ban weapons that cause disproportionate harm to civilians.

Through our Tokyo office and our staff located in other countries where Japan has embassies, we communicate regularly with the Japanese government, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on human rights issues. For instance, we have worked closely with the government on North Korean abductees and the overall abysmal human rights situation in North Korea. We have had extensive dealings with your embassies in many countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, and Cambodia.

We appreciate the official commitment Japan has shown over many years to promote and protect human rights abroad. At the United Nations, Japan has called for human rights to be mainstreamed in all UN activities. Japan has a largely positive voting record at the Human Rights Council, with the exceptions such as the one regarding the Sri Lanka resolution, and sometimes plays a mediating role in the Asia Group at the UN. Japan has promoted stronger international human rights standards.

As a donor, Japan in 1991 issued its charter on Official Development Assistance (ODA), which includes human rights as one of its principles. JICA has taken additional policy steps, such as issuing guidelines on Environmental and Social Considerations (ESC), to protect human rights.

However, there remains a significant gap between official rhetoric and implementation. As a global economic power and influential donor, we believe Japan can do much more to protect rights, both at the policy level and on the ground. According to DAC, in 2010 Japan was the top donor to countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, India, Panama, Bhutan, Tonga, Burma, Maldives, and Mongolia.  (

Japan could have significantly greater impact on human rights abroad if it chose to use its donor and political influence. Successive Japanese governments have decided not to be a proactive and significant actor on human rights or take strong and consistent public positions when the human rights situation deteriorates in countries where it is a major donor.

Indeed, Japan has fallen behind other bilateral and multilateral donors in taking rights into account in its development policies and practices. For example, human rights are not mainstreamed within JICA and MOFA. Human rights diplomacy is rarely conducted and the raising of specific human rights concerns publicly is especially rare. Training on human rights at MOFA and JICA is superficial at best. While there is an ambassador in charge of human rights and humanitarian affairs and a human rights and humanitarian section at MOFA, the ambassador’s role is very limited and the section rarely functions proactively in responding to emerging or ongoing rights problems, instead spending most of their time responding to UN human rights initiatives. Neither the ambassador nor any other official is given the role of leading the ministry to promote and protect human rights on the ground, including in ODA recipient countries. To our knowledge, the ministry does not have dedicated staff working on human rights on individual countries or in their respective embassies. While JICA has some experts related to human rights issues, we are not aware that promotion and protection of human rights are mainstreamed as a priority within JICA’s work.

We believe that Japan, often through JICA, as one of the world’s largest donors, can and should play an increasingly important role in promoting and protecting human rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch is researching MOFA and JICA policies and practices on human rights.  We want to ensure that the Foreign Ministry’s and JICA’s views are fairly and accurately reflected in our reporting. For this reason, attached are questions that we hope you can answer in writing. Some are policy oriented, while others relate to specific country situations. We would welcome your response by March 31, 2014 to (please kindly copy Kanae Doi, Japan Director at ).

We hope this will be the start of a productive dialogue. We would be pleased to meet with you or members of your staff to discuss these issues at your convenience.

Yours Sincerely,                                                          


Brad Adams                                                                                     

Executive Director, Asia Division


cc:           Prime Minister Shinzo Abe


Questions for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and JICA on

Human Rights Policies and Practices


  1. We are aware of Japan’s official stance on human rights and diplomacy ( as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment on basic human rights, democracy, freedom and the rule of law ( ).
    1. Please identify the steps the Japanese government takes in order to translate the stated policies and commitment into action. Please give examples.
    2. The principle of ODA implementation within Japan’s ODA Charter states: “[f]ull attention should be paid to efforts for promoting democratization and the introduction of a market-oriented economy, and the situation regarding the protection of basic human rights and freedom in the recipient country.” ( How does the Foreign Ministry and JICA collect, compile and evaluate the situation of basic human rights and democracy in ODA recipient countries? Please be as specific as possible.
    3. What standards does the Japanese government apply to promote democracy and human rights? If the standards are different from those found in international law, please identify those used.
    4. What actions does the Japanese government take to respond to alleged violations of these standards? Please provide examples from the past 10 years.
  1. Human Security
    1. Please explain the meaning of this concept.
    2. How is the concept of human security implemented to promote and protect human rights? Please give examples.
    3. Please identify gaps between “human security” and international human rights law.
    4. Why are there gaps between the concept of human security and international human rights law?
    5. Will the government take steps to bring human security into conformity with international human rights law?
  1. Environmental and Social Considerations (ESC)
    1. Please explain the meaning of ESC.
    2. How is ESC implemented to promote and protect human rights?
    3. What gaps are there between ESC and international human rights law?
    4. ESC guidelines ( were updated in 2010 to improve the transparency and accountability of JICA’s projects and improve local residents’ living standards.
      1. What impact has this had on the ground?
      2. Some development consultants who work with JICA suggest that in practice ESC guidelines are used primarily as to provide information in order to initiate projects without serious consideration of the relevant human rights issues. Does JICA share these concerns and, if so, what steps will you take to make the guidelines substantive and not just procedural?
  1. What is JICA’s view of the Rights-Based Approach (RBA) to development?
    1. What practical steps does JICA take to ensure RBA protects rights?
    2. We understand that JICA is drafting RBA guidelines. When will they be published and will they be open for public consultation with experts and others?
  1. What training is given to foreign service officers, from ambassadors to entry-level positions, and JICA staff on international human rights standards? Please provide as much detail as possible.
  1. What training is given to foreign service officers, from ambassadors to entry-level positions, and JICA staff about how to respond to complaints with JICA projects?
  1. Human Rights Watch and others receive complaints from affected communities that JICA does not do enough to address abusive practices by local government officials and their agents carrying out JICA projects. What is the procedure for identifying, preventing and responding to human rights-related problems in JICA projects? We are aware of the ESC guidelines, so we hope you can identify the steps you take to implement the guidelines, referring to as many examples as possible.
    1. What sources of information do you use?
    2. Do you rely systematically on independent sources, such as civil society, local organizations and residents, and the media?
    3. How do you verify the information you receive?
    4. Do you meet with the intended beneficiaries in all cases? Do you meet with them in the presence of government officials or privately?
    5. Do you meet with other local populations indirectly affected by the projects?
    6. How does JICA ensure that there are no unforeseen human rights related problems in JICA projects?
    7. How does JICA deal with situations in which the local population is afraid to complain through local authorities? What special steps does it take? Are these effective?
    8. How does JICA deal with the fact that local residents may not speak Japanese or English and cannot communicate directly with JICA or embassy staff?
    9. How does JICA make sure that poor and/or marginalized people have access to JICA to share their complaints and address their violations? How do you take into account that many people cannot afford to make phone calls, do not have access to computers or the Internet to send emails to addresses JICA provides, and do not speak Japanese or English?
    10. How do you ensure that local partners, including central and local government of the recipient country, abide by ESC guidelines, national law, and international law? What do you do when the local authorities do not fully respond to the concerns the Japanese government raises?
    11. How does JICA respond to complaints closely connected to JICA projects but not directly funded by it, such as the case of land acquisition regarding “Double-Double Track” project in Indonesia, described below?
  1. How does JICA deal with conflicts between governments and project recipients? We would appreciate examples of how such cases have been handled.
    1. The Cambodian government calls residents around some JICA project sites “squatters” in order to justify the forced relocation of residents, while residents and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and lawyers say they have the right to ownership or possession and are being victimized by powerful interests and an ambiguous land law. How did the Japanese government deal with these situations? Under ESC guidelines, what steps will the Japanese government take to better protect rights?
    2. In JBIC’s “Double-Double Track” project in Jakarta, Indonesia, which expanded the Java railway line, evicted residents were forced to sign false receipts for more compensation than they actually received, lost considerable personal property during evictions, and were intimidated by thugs prior to their eviction. In one instance, the eviction turned violent. The consultation between JBIC and Indonesian NGOs appears to have been insufficient. How did the Japanese government respond once it learned about these problems? What would the Japanese government do differently if this situation were to happen again to better protect rights? See more on pages 68-69 at
    3. NGOs in Mozambique and Japan have been repeatedly calling on the Japanese government to review the ProSAVANA project in Mozambique, which may threaten the livelihood of small-scale farmers. A 2013 Human Rights Watch report ( showed how weak governance and limited safeguards in Mozambique mean that large-scale development projects, especially those involving resettlement, can lead to negative human rights impacts on local communities’ access to food, water, and work.
      1. Why is this large-scale agricultural development project not a category A project, requiring a strict assessment by JICA, despite the significant risk of deeply adverse impacts on local communities?
      2. What steps are being taken to ensure human rights due diligence with this project? How will this project be monitored? How will JICA ensure open and regular dialogue with affected communities?
      3. How will JICA ensure that ESC guidelines will be useful in preventing and addressing all land acquisition related problems?
      4. Can you explain JICA’s policy on resettlements and how it will be implemented in this case?
  1. While there are some exceptions, which we appreciate, many MOFA and JICA officials in Tokyo and many diplomats, including at the ambassadorial level, say that Japan will not speak out on human rights issues partly to avoid harming relations with the host government. What are the reasons that Japan doesn’t use the combination of diplomacy, including public diplomacy, and the provision of development aid as a form of pressure to improve human rights?
    1. For example, Japan is the biggest donor to Cambodia since 1992 but continues providing aid to Cambodia despite serious and ongoing violations of rights. The Japanese government said nothing critical about the fundamentally flawed July 2013 elections or the ban on demonstrations and attacks on protesters.
    2. Japan is also the largest donor to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, which are holding trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, but it has offered no public criticism and does not appear to have put any private pressure on the government about political interference and corruption with the court.
    3. Japan was the largest donor to Sri Lanka during the height of its civil armed conflict, but it has refused to take any strong public action against the government for abuses or offer public criticism.
    4. Japan is a large donor to Ethiopia, but says nothing publicly about the widespread abuses by the Ethiopian government, including during Prime Minister Abe’s recent visit to Addis Ababa in January 2014.
    5. Japan is the largest donor to Vietnam, but says nothing publicly about its serious rights abuses, including crackdown on critics, routine police abuse, and the lack of genuine and periodic elections.



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