2nd Quarterly, 2006 No.140

The Forth Session of the Project Concerning Discrimination Based on Work and Descent

The forth session of BLHRRI's Project Concerning Discrimination Based on Work and Descent was held on the 19th of February 2006. The speakers at the session were Masaki Sakiyama, an assistant professor at Ritsumeikan University, and Kenzo Tomonaga, the Director of BLHRRI.

Professor Sakiyama's presentation focused on the relationship between 'nation' and 'state' and concerned a number of aspects of social discrimination in Latin-America from colonial times to the present day. Sakiyama also analyzed relationships between issues regarding 'work and descent' and discrimination from a historical viewpoint, under the world-wide impact of globalizing forces, and categorized these issues under three new models based on the binary positions of 'center' and 'margin'.

In Costa Rica, there is fierce discrimination against 'illegal Nicaraguan settlers' as a result of the Nicaragua conflict in the 1980s. The indigenous people of Peru, sometimes called 'cholo' (a discriminatory term), moved from rural to urban areas in the 1960s and have played a significant role in national politics. Using these examples, Sakiyama discussed "the construction of a new marginalization within 'center' society and new centralization within 'margin' society" as the first model. He next identified the shift of meaning of the discriminately value norm derived from the Mestizos, who are an ethnic mix of white Spanish and indigenous people in the Peruvian mountain ranges, becoming regarded as indigenous people. However, the segregation of indigenous people from their conventional social situations brought on their cultural destruction. This is an example of the second model of centralization within margin society. Finally, the genocidal practices committed against indigenous peoples in Guatemala, Mexico and Chiapas and the conflict between the few White upper class Mestizos land holders and indigenous landless peasants, in terms of the relationship between racial groups and class, are good examples of the third model of 'marginalization within margin society'.

Sakiyama's report suggested that discrimination based on work and descent can be analyzed in the context of the above three models of relationships between 'center' and 'margin.'

Director Tomonaga summarized and evaluated the report submitted to the UN Commission on Human Rights by Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene. He also discussed the results of the survey on discrimination based on work and descent that was distributed to subject countries and organizations by Special Rapporteurs Yokota and Chang.

Tomonaga praised the Diene's report on the following points; the confirmation of Buraku problems, the marginalization of minority groups in Japan by the lack of provision of an adequate environment for educational, employment, health, and housing opportunities, and the lack of visibility in the national administration. He also commended the recommendations for conducting national research, the enactment of an anti-discrimination law, the creation of a national human rights commission, and the historical reconstruction of minority groups and educational programs to educate people about the important contributions minority groups have made to business and culture in Japan. However, he also pointed out a number of incorrect facts and inaccurate expressions that were contained in the report.

With regard to the survey, Tomonaga summarized the responses to the various questions. Yokota recommended that the achievements and remaining challenges of the movements and activities conducted in the most part by Japanese minority organizations should be clarified and that 'good practices' that developed as a result should be promoted to other minority movements around the world.

Overall, the session clarified the successes and achievements of the Buraku Liberation movement and identified how these achievements were reached and what problems still remain.

Yugo Tomonaga

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