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15 Organizations Advocating for Human Rights in Japan

Human Rights Watch Japan

Human Rights Watch Tokyo is the Japanese subsidiary of Human Rights Watch, which works to investigate and research human rights abuses both globally and within Japan. Human Rights Watch Japan regularly lobbies local governments, businesses and other groups to adopt a human rights based approach in their practices and encourage them to change their policies and laws. As an independent research entity, Human Rights Watch Japan receives its funding from its donors and refuses government and corporate funding.

Human Rights Now

Human Rights Now (HRN) is an international human rights NGO based in Tokyo, Japan with UN special consultative status. HRN was established in 2006 by a group of human rights professionals, as the first international human rights NGO based in Japan. With over 700 members comprised of various human rights specialists, HRN works for the promotion and protection of human rights for people in the world, with a special focus on Asia. Furthermore, HRN looks to contribute to the development of international human rights standards and norms through the UN and other international institutions and promote the incorporation of international human rights standards within the domestic framework of Japan.

Japan International Cooperation Agency

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is a governmental institution that delivers the majority of the Japanese government’s official development assistance (ODA). JICA is chartered with assisted economic and social growth in developing nations and the promotion of international cooperation and human rights protection.

Amnesty Japan

Amnesty International Japan is the Japanese subsidiary of Amnesty International, which works to create a world in which the freedom and dignities of people are equally protected. As the world’s biggest NGO founded in 1961, Amnesty International has amassed over 10 million advocates in 200 countries around the world and through its international presence, Amnesty distributes its independent research and proposes recommendations to the United Nations and other governmental entities. Amnesty International Japan was founded in 1970 and works to inform Japan and the wider community of human rights violations occurring around the world, with a special focus on Japan and the broader Asian region.

World Vision Japan

World Vision Japan is the Japanese subsidiary of World Vision, an international NGO that provides development assistance, humanitarian assistance and advocacy based upon the spirit of Christianity. World Vision Japan was established in 1987 and in 2021 alone, has implemented 169 projects in 36 countries and provided development assistance and emergency humanitarian assistance in over 100 countries. Alongside its international activities, World Vision Japan amassed over 60 million yen in donations and used its funding for supporting local business activities and human rights advocacy.

Hurights Osaka

Hurights Osaka (otherwise known as the Asia Pacific Human Rights Center) was established in 1994 with ambitions to collect and provide comprehensive human rights research in the Asia-Pacific region. As an international human rights NGO that aims to foster mutual understanding and friendship across the Asia-Pacific, Hurights Osaka hopes to contribute towards the international exchange of Osaka and nurture the understanding of human rights within the prefecture. Currently, Hurights Osaka works towards the human rights cause through research, human rights training courses and seminars, public relations and consultations with stakeholders.

The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)

The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) is an international human rights NGO established in 1988 in Tokyo, that aims to eliminate all discrimination and racism globally. As the first human rights NGO based in Japan to obtain consultative status with the United Nations, IMADR has set up an office in Geneva and works with UN agencies across the world. In Japan, IMADR’s work centres around the support of the Indigenous Ainu people in Hokkaido and the Ryukyu people in Okinawa, alongside Zainichi Koreans living in Japan. By amplifying the voices of marginalized social groups in Japan, IMADR actively shares their research and experiences to governmental entities to ensure such issues are recognized by the world.

JANIC

JANIC is a network of civil society organizations based in Japan promoting to solve international human rights issues by uniting and supporting over 100 organizations to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice. Founded in 1987 in the heart of Tokyo, JANIC’s mission centres around the strengthening the institutional capabilities of Japanese human rights NGOs and the facilitating of collective action to the wider Japanese civil society to influence the policies and practices of governments and institutions at both the domestic and international levels. Alongside JANIC’s commitment to supporting NGOs, the organization itself also works to disseminate information and knowledge concerning people’s living conditions in developing regions of the world and enlighten the general Japanese public on the role of NGOs and encourage them to participate in NGO activities in any form.

Tokyo Metropolitan Human Rights Promotion Center

The Tokyo Metropolitan Human Rights Promotion Center was initially founded as the Tokyo Dowa Business Promotion Association in 1971, which aimed to address the “Buraku” discrimination issue, a human rights issue unique to Japan that is based upon the social, cultural and economic discrimination of certain social groups due to historical prejudices in Japanese society. Later, the organization broadened its scope of activities to include human rights violations against children, women, the disabled, foreigners, the Indigenous peoples of Japan and criminals. Since its establishment, the Tokyo Metropolitan Human Rights Promotion Center has worked to raise awareness of human rights among the citizens of Tokyo by implementing human rights education projects to contribute to the solution of human rights issues in Japan.

Centre for Human Rights Education and Training

The Centre for Human Rights Education and Training was established in October 1987 under the management of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to address discrimination and human rights issues in Japanese society. Currently, the organization is focusing its efforts on educating the Japanese public on human rights issues by supporting and coordinating with various human rights institutions, alongside governmental entities, public organizations and companies. Alongside the centre’s human rights research and training programs the organization opened a human rights library endorsed by Japan’s Ministry of Justice in 2000 to provide greater education and awareness of human rights issues both abroad and domestic.

AAR Japan

AAR Japan was founded in 1979 with a mission to help refugees from Indochina as a civil organization without any political, religious or ideological affiliations. Since its beginnings in the late seventies, AAR Japan has grown into an international human rights organization approved and registered with the United Nations that reaches out to the most vulnerable populations around the globe. Active in over 60 different countries, AAR received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for their international activities providing emergency assistance, support for disabled people, mine clearance, action against infectious diseases and raising public awareness.

Japan Civil Liberties Union (JCLU)

The Japan Civil Liberties Union (JCLU) is a public interest corporation whose sole purpose is to protect basic human rights. Established in 1947, JCLU conducts research and proposals focusing on the freedom of expression, education and the human rights of foreigners, alongside supporting plaintiffs in human rights proceedings. JCLU is also a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (ILHR) and the International Federation for Human Rights (ICJ) and obtained the special consultative status of the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2003. Alongside its research initiatives and pursuits, the organization publishes a JCLU newsletter every quarter.

Japan Association for Refugees (難民支援協会)

The Japan Association for Refugees is a Japanese NGO that provides comprehensive assistance for refugees from their arrival in Japan until they have comfortably settled in their new homes. The Japan Association for Refugees works as a project implementing partner under contract with the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and provides legal, social and integrative support for refugees, alongside publish an annual report on their activities and advocacy in both Japanese and English.

Japan Alliance for Legislation to Remove Social Barriers based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (J-All)

The Japan Alliance for Legislation to Remove Social Barriers based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (J-All) is a Japanese organization founded in 2015 with ambitions to legislate laws in Japan to remove social barriers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. J-All advise and evaluate a wide range of policies by referring to past cases, data, views of experts and track records of cooperation with local governments, alongside provide legal support and consulting for private businesses. To advocate their cause to the greater Japanese public, J-All also hosts lectures and study sessions regarding the various systems and social trends of LGBTQ issues on behalf of local governments, private companies, labor unions and educational institutions.

Japan International Center for the Rights of the Child (C-Rights)

The Japan International Center for the Rights of the Child (C-Rights) is a certified NPO that works towards the realization of the rights of all children around the world. Established in 1992, C-Rights works to promote and realize the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Japan and abroad, particularly in developing countries and achieve a world where the rights of every child set forth in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are realized, and children can pursue the happiness regardless the situation they are in or country where they reside. Much of their advocacy and activities are centred around supporting children in Cambodia, particularly issues of child labor and human trafficking.

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About the author

Kaori Higa

Kaori Higa is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, Canada. She has worked extensively in the human rights sector, public relations consulting and within state governments across three continents. As part of her work, Kaori has coordinated logistics for governmental press conferences and proposed strategies that encourage governmental and legal institutions to adopt human rights-based policies and legislation. Aside from her political endeavors and human rights advocacy, Kaori is an avid classical violinist, having been invited to perform a violin solo in Carnegie Hall.