Japan adopted its most recent National Action Plan (NAP) in 2019 for the period of 2019-2022. The NAP was developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in particular with women’s groups, and experts in the evaluation committee, which monitored and evaluated the first NAP, adopted in 2015 for the period 2015-2018. The 2019 NAP does not differ drastically from the 2015, rather it focused on smoothing out redundancies. Structural changes will be reserved for the following NAP based on the experience of implementation.
The 2015 and 2019 NAPs approach the implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda both domestically and internationally, including reviewing the Japanese government’s policies and initiatives concerning assistance in the field of conflict prevention and peacebuilding from a gender perspective. The NAP addresses disarmament by highlighting the gendered impact of small arms and light weapons as well as gender-sensitive arms control measures. The NAP’s objectives are organized under four overarching goals that align with the primary pillars of UNSCR 1325: participation; conflict prevention; protection; and humanitarian and reconstruction. Each specific goal under the pillars is accompanied by a set of actions and indicators; however, the 2019 NAP still does not have a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework despite setting a goal to develop one in the 2015 NAP, nor does it have an allocated budget.
Japan has not been involved in armed conflict since the end of World War II, as it adopted a military neutrality policy, which is enshrined in its constitution, that rejects the use of arms as a means to settle international disputes. Nevertheless, the country does have a military force, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and has witnessed sporadic, albeit unsuccessful, efforts to revise the pacifist constitution. Additionally, in 2019, Japan was among the top 10 countries with the highest military expenditure. In the current moment, Japan continues to have political tension with North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme and with China and South Korea over disputed territory and Japan’s past wartime actions, including its colonial legacy and the sexual slavery of women, euphemistically refered to as “comfort women,” in occupied territories.
Japan is a contributor to humanitarian aid, including as a contributing donor to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, a global partnership that works to empower women in conflict zones and humanitarian crises. Japan is also a partner of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to mitigate and provide accountability for gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies. In 2019, Japan was the UN Women’s fourteenth-largest regular resources contributor with USD 3.39 million and the seventh-largest total government contributor with USD 17.65 million.
At the multilateral level, Japan most recently served as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2016-2017. In Japan’s constitution, renounce war and “desire peace for all time”, with the core principle of fundamental human rights, equality under the law and individual dignity. It also has ‘the essential equality of the sexes in family life’ (p 2). In 1999, Japan enacted the Basic Act for a Gender Equal Society and established the Basic Plan for Gender Equality, which it promotes in tandem with its NAP, with the goal of gender equality a top priority for the 21st century.