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Japan Foreign Ministry using contribution cuts to pressure int'l bodies to 'improve'

The Foreign Ministry headquarters is seen in this file photo taken in the Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been reducing its voluntary contributions to some international organizations, pressuring bodies that release information unfavorable to Japan to "improve their operations."

Japan's contributions over the past decade peaked in fiscal 2015, but they have since dipped by about 20% to 28.4 billion yen in the initial budget for fiscal 2019. This figure is 2.6% below the amount for fiscal 2018.

A letter sent by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy Joseph Cannataci to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Click image to enlarge. (From the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights homepage)

On March 24 this year, during policy negotiations with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Japan stated that a U.N. Human Rights Council special rapporteur was unilaterally expressing opinions about Japan under the banner of the United Nations, and suggested that the body was not functioning.

Tokyo specifically had in mind an open letter released in May 2017 by Joseph Cannataci, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to privacy. Cannataci stated that a bill to amend Japan's Act on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds, also known as the "anti-conspiracy bill," which was being debated in the Japanese Diet at the time, could lead to "undue restrictions to the rights of privacy" if adopted. The letter appears on the OHCHR website.

During the policy negotiations, the OHCHR pointed out that special rapporteurs acted as individuals, based on their own qualifications. However, Japan said that even opposition legislators in Japan's Diet had criticized the letter, and warned that it could affect Japan's voluntary contributions to the human rights body.

The Foreign Ministry in fiscal 2015 launched a system to evaluate its voluntary contributions to international bodies with a view to reducing expenses. Its condition for making contributions was that they should be useful to Japan.

A special evaluation division was also established within the ministry in fiscal 2017, based on suggestions from the Headquarters for Promoting Administrative Reform then headed by Foreign Minister Taro Kono. On March 8 this year, Kono told the House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs, "We will modulate (our contributions), making drastic cuts in areas where there is a need to do so, and even consider pulling out."

In the initial budget for fiscal 2019, Japan's voluntary contributions to the OHCHR were reduced to 7.15 million yen -- about 45% below the amount in the initial budget for the previous fiscal year. The ministry also cut its contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to approximately 295 million yen -- down by about 5 million yen. The move came after UNESCO in 2015 listed documents relating to the Nanjing Massacre in its Memory of the World Register.

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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