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18 Oct 2021

Human Rights Now and Kiko Network

Japan: NGOs protest government abstention from UN resolution on right to clean environment and call for proactive measures to guarantee the right

"[Joint Statement] HRN and Kiko Network protest the Japanese government’s abstention from the UN resolution on the right to the environment and call on it to take proactive measures to guarantee the right to the environment" 18 October 2021

On 8 October, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, with 43 votes and favor, none against, and four abstentions, China, India, Russia, and Japan.[...]

Human Rights Now [...] and Kiko Network welcome the resolution itself as the confirmation of the right to a clean environment, but is deeply disappointed in the failure of the Japanese government to support this resolution and take global leadership in combatting one of the major challenges of our times.

The preambular paragraphs focus on some of the most important challenges facing the world today for which Japan should be a leader and contributor in addressing, including: the vital role of the environment in sustainable development and in protecting critical human rights including to life, health, food, housing, water, and culture; the central role of climate change and other environmental crises on the enjoyment of all human rights; the needs of populations specially vulnerable to environmental harm including indigenous people, older persons, persons with disabilities, women and girls; the public’s rights to accurate and adequate information, to participate effectively in the government’s environmental decision-making, and to an effective remedy; the obligation to respect human rights in addressing environmental challenges; and the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights in regards to environmental matters and to environmental activists.

In all of these regards, it must be recalled that one of the largest blows to public trust in the Japanese government in recent years, which has highlighted significant failures by the Japanese government (and a business) on every one of these points, has been its much criticized response to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster, including its failures to adequately protect the public’s rights to health and to provide accurate and adequate information about the disaster. In grossly mishandling the largest environmental disaster in recent history, the Japanese government displayed ”a culture of coverups and denials that contributed to the nuclear accident and continues to dog Japan’s efforts to restart its nuclear industry.”[...]

[...] [W]e call on the government to take meaningful action in line with the resolution to protect the right to a clean environment, including cooperating with international initiatives, implementing best practices and policies, and building government capacities, as well as to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on this issue [...].