The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is scheduled to hold its 30th session in Geneva, Switzerland from September 14 to October 2. It was confirmed on July 22 that Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga will deliver a speech at the UNHRC’s upcoming session. The Shima Gurumi Association, which aims to prevent new U.S. base construction in Henoko, has been working with several UN nongovernmental organizations to arrange for the governor to address the UN. The association is arranging for Onaga to deliver a speech at the UN on September 21 or 22.
Soon after being elected, governor Onaga showed his eagerness to work with the UN. If Onaga addresses the UN, it could spark debate on the Henoko relocation issue and could influence international opinion.
Receiving a request from the Shima Gurumi Association, the Citizens’ Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples showed its intention to give Onaga an opportunity to address in UNHRC. It is common for nongovernmental organizations with special consultative status at the UN to give third parties an opportunity to address UN sessions.
A representative of the center and professor at Keisen University Hideaki Kamiura was optimistic about Onaga’s address. “If governor Onaga can address the UNHRC, which deals with human rights issues, UN members will be able to see that what he says is a consensus of Okinawan people. It could possibly put pressure on the U.S. and Japanese governments,” he said.
In order to enable Onaga to address the UNHRC, the Shima Gurumi Association has been working with a UN authorized NGO, IMADR. While IMADR is in charge of scheduling for this session, it is the Citizens’ Diplomatic Centre that has provided Onaga a space to speak.
UNHRC sessions are held three times every year. The next conference will be held from September 14 to October 2. The regular meeting of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, which would normally be held in the middle of September, is unlikely to conflict with Onaga’s address because there will be five consecutive national holidays from September 19 to 23, making the governor’s schedule more flexible.
Prefectural assembly member Yoshikazu Tamaki who is also the executive director of the Shima Gurumi Association said he hoped the UN address would soon be confirmed.
“We will talk to Onaga about the schedule for addressing the UN after he comes back from Singapore. Although we cannot yet be sure whether we can lock in the schedule, we would like to make it happen,” he said.
(English translation by T&CT)