Oct. 26, 2010
Okinawa Region Working Group, Japan Civil Network for CBD
Position paper of Okinawa Region Working
Our Small Islands, Our Treasured Biodiversity—With
the three core principles of “Environment” ”Peace”and “Human Rights”, we strive
to protect and conserve Okinawa’s biodiversity, and to contribute to the
implementation of the CBD at global level.
Region Working Group Position Paper
Okinawa’s Biodiversity and the
Okinawa Region Working Group
Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan, consisting of about
160 small islands. Located in the only subtropical oceanic climate zone of
Japan, these islands, rich and unique in biodiversity, are habitat for a number
of rare endemic species. The Okinawa
Region Working Group addresses the issues of conservation and sustainable use
of biodiversity in Okinawa with the core principles of “Environment”, “Peace”,
and “Human Rights”. These core
principles have been derived from Okinawa’s experience of “Battle of Okinawa”,
“US military occupation”, “Okinawa’s reversion to Japan”, and “development
boom”. Our approach to biodiversity is based upon the understanding that “Environment”,
”Peace”, and “Human Rights” are closely linked.
major causes for biodiversity loss in Okinawa
The very nature of island
ecosystem makes Okinawa’s biodiversity fragile and vulnerable, especially to
the impact of human activities. Besides
climate change and intrusion of alien species, two other major causes for the
loss and degradation of biodiversity in Okinawa are 1) the presence and
operation of US military bases and facilities: 2) government subsidized
ill-advised development projects in return for Okinawa’s bearing of US bases.
The Battle of Okinawa during
World War II destroyed thousands of lives of Okinawan people and the
environment which their livelihoods depended upon. In the 50s and 60s, the US
military occupational government deprived many Okinawan people of their land
and converted the land into US military bases. Since then, through soil
contamination, mountain fires and many other forms, the US military training
and operation have degraded and continue to degrade the environment and
biodiversity of Okinawa.
At present, two new military
base construction plans are underway to further assault the environment and
biodiversity of Okinawa: One plan is to construct a massive US military base in
Henoko and Oura Bay, critical habitat of the endangered Okinawa dugong and rare
blue coral reefs; the other is to construct US helipads in the subtropical
forests of Yanbaru, where a large number of endemic animals and plants
including endangered Yanbaru rail still survive.
Meanwhile, a large number of
public works projects, highly subsidized by the Japanese government, have been
undertaken since the reversion of Okinawa from US to Japan in 1972. These “development projects” are considered as
a form of compensation for the deprived land and deprived economic opportunity
by the presence of US military bases. The
implementation of development projects often lacked proper environmental
considerations and it was done according to the “mainland standard” for
environmental considerations, which are not necessarily suitable for Okinawa’s
subtropical and island environment. As a
result, the coastlines of many islands have been severely altered by
reclamation projects and a substantial amount of coral reefs has been
At present, the Okinawa
prefectural government is carrying out “forest roads” construction and
clear-cutting in Yanbaru forests, putting at risk the evergreen oak and the
endangered Okinawa Rail. At the Awase
tidal flat, often referred to as a “Cradle of Life”, the national and local
governments have been pushing a reclamation project.
The presence of US military
bases and “ill-advised development projects” have deprived and continue to
deprive Okinawa and its people of blessings from biodiversity: the natural
environment and our cultural traditions which are closely linked to the
environment. It is also important to emphasize that what underlies this
situation is historical and structural discrimination by the Japanese and US
governments against Okinawa and its people.
Citizens and NGOs for
Biodiversity Conservation: Constrains and Hope
Concerned citizens and NGOs have been addressing the issues of
environment and biodiversity conservation in Okinawa. However, we often face difficulties and
constrains due to the peculiar political situation in which Okinawa is placed.
The Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) makes it very difficult for
citizens to have access to information on environmental conditions on US bases in
Okinawa. It also severely constrains our environment protection and
conservation activities concerning US bases.
Consequences of this peculiar situation are rather than
disturbing. The Japanese government has
filed a “slap lawsuit” against residents of the Takae community in the Yambaru
area, who carried out sit-in protest to stop the above mentioned construction
of US helipads to protect their live, livelihoods and the environment. The
lawsuit by the Japanese government is extreme and infringes upon the human
rights of the local people.
We of the Okinawa Region Working Group believe that the environment and
biodiversity of Okinawa is a treasure not only for Okinawa and its people, but
also for the world and its peoples. At the same time, we are alarmed by the
fact that our treasure is being threatened. Urgent action is needed to protect
and conserve them. We thus call for international attention and make the
I Island Biodiversity
call on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to:
into consideration that island biodiversity is fragile and vulnerable not
only because of the nature of island ecosystem, but also because of islands’
marginalized status in politics and geopolitics;
-recognize that the issues
of island biodiversity occur not only in the context of Global North and
South, but also in the context of Domestic North and South;
the issues of Domestic North and South into the Programme of Work of Island
Biodiversity and the Global Island Partnership（GLISPA）
Okinawa, a chain of small islands located in subtropical oceanic
climate, is habitat for various kinds of endemic and sub-endemic species. Given the fragileness and vulnerability of
island ecosystem, human activities in forests, rivers, and the sea impose
synergic and cumulative impacts on island biodiversity, which could easily lead
to biodiversity loss. As the discussions
on “Island Biodiversity” at CBD COP 8 and COP 9 showed, the crisis of Okinawa’s
biodiversity can be attributed to the fragileness and vulnerability of island
ecosystem, especially to human activities.
While the fragileness and vulnerability of islands can be addressed as
issues of ecosystem, they should also be recognized as matters of geopolitics
and political economy. This applies to
both international and domestic contexts.
Within countries or states, islands and island communities tend to be
marginalized and subjected to the policies of their central governments. As their marginalization is institutionalized
as part of larger social structure, these marginalized islands and island
regions are often forced to accept undesirable or “Not In My Back Yard”
facilities. In return, the central governments bring into them highly
subsidized public works, many of which tend to be development projects without
environmental considerations. It is in
this vicious circle, the conservation of island biodiversity becomes difficult.
The CBD addresses the issue of North and South at the global level, as
seen in its “Preface” referring to “the needs of developing countries” and
“Noting in this regard the special conditions of the least developed countries
and small island states”. The CBD does
not address however, to the extent it is necessary, domestic disparities
between South and North within countires, developed or developing. We recommend
the CBD to establish effective channels to project voices of islands within
countires so that islands and island communities are not subjected to the “standards”
of the “Center” or the “North. We also recommend the CBD to promote appropriate
policies for islands and island communities within countries in the Programme
of Work of Island Biodiversity and GLISP.
II US’s Ratification on the Convention on
call on the United States of America to ratify the CBD.
also call on the CBD, Parties, and the United Nation Environment Programme to
urge the United States of America to ratify the CBD.
US Foreign Policy has tremendous impact all over the world and it has thus
direct and indirect effects on the environment and biodiversity of other
countries. In Okinawa, US foreign policy
takes the form of the presence of US military bases, and these US military
bases have negative impact on the environment and biodiversity of Okinawa
through pollution, soil contamination, mountain fires, and other forms. Also, the lack of transparency in
environmental policy and lack of mechanism for policy implementation involving US
military bases makes it difficult to hold US military accountable for
environmental problems caused by US military bases in Okinawa.
territories of the US, also suffer from the presence of US military bases on
At the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Civil
Society Workshop on Environmental Norms and Military Activities held in Okinawa
in November, 2009, it was pointed out that, this type of situation is not
limited to Okinawa; as referred in Recommendation I, the environments of
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, which are respectively a state and
We thus call on the US to ratify the CBD. We also call on the CBD, Parties and the UNEP
to urge the US to ratify the CBD.
Peace and Human Rights Issues
We recommend Parties to the CBD, especially the
Japanese government, to:
recognize that biodiversity issues are linked
closely, not only to issues of environment, but also to issues of peace and
of human rights;
incorporate peace and human rights perspectives into
the process of “mainstreaming biodiversity” stated in the Strategic Goal A of
the Strategic Plan for the Post 2010 Period.
While the CBD highlights peace and human rights as integrated parts of
biodiversity conservation, it does not mean that each Party takes the same
stance. The Japanese government did not incorporate the perspectives of peace
and human rights into their Basic Act on
Biodiversity and National
Biodiversity Strategy, disregarding the spirits of the CBD.
The lack of perspectives of peace and human rights in the Japanese
government’s biodiversity policy has lead to unexpected consequences in
Okinawa. The Japanese government has filed a “slap lawsuit” against residents
of the Takae community, in Higashi Village, who engaged in sit-in protest
against the construction of US military helipads in their community to protect
their life, livelihoods, and the environment. We consider that the residents
were exercising their human rights and the Japanese government’s action
infringes upon the human rights of the residents.
Thus, we recommend that Parties to the CBD, especially the Japanese
government as the Chair of COP 10, integrate the perspectives of peace and
human rights into their environmental and biodiversity policies and measures.
IV National Biodiversity Strategic Plan
achieve the goals of its Strategic Plan for the Post 2010 Period, we urge the
Japanese government to:
and halt key human activities contributing to biodiversity loss;
the significance of “diversity of places” which supports various kinds of
the conservation of “untouched nature” as its first principle, and the
establishment of effective policy to promote the conservation of “untouched
nature” as the first priority in its next “National Biodiversity Strategy for
Although the First National
Biodiversity Strategy was established in 1995, followed by the second and
third national strategies, the Japanese government has not been able to halt or
slow down its biodiversity loss. These strategies are themselves inadequate or
they have not been implemented. In the National
Biodiversity Strategy 2010, the most recent version of national strategy
for biodiversity conservation, the Japanese government fails to provide a
thorough review on underlying causes of biodiversity loss. It also fails to
identify key human activities contributing to biodiversity loss.
Thus, we urge the Japanese government to make the identification and
halting of key human activities contributing to biodiversity loss as its first
priority in its next National
Biodiversity Strategy for Post 2010.
In Okinawa, endangered and rare species such as Iriomote wild cats and
Okinawa dugongs are threatened and are at risk of extinction; urgent action is
needed. We thus call on the Japanese government to take urgent and effective
action, including the implementation and application of existing laws such as
Endangered Species Act to these endangered species. We also call on the
Japanese government to establish legislation and measures, which enable effective
conservation of these endangered species, in association with the next National Biodiversity Strategy for Post 2010.
the significance of “diversity of
places”, which support various kinds of species, and to make the conservation
of “untouched nature” as its first principle, without resorting to mitigation
measures such as transplanting of plants and animals, in its drawing up of the National Biodiversity Strategy for Post 2010.
We urge the Japanese government to recognize
We further urge the Japanese government to incorporate biodiversity
perspectives into the EIA system by referring to the CBD’s “Guidelines for
incorporating biodiversity-related issues into environmental impact assessment
legislation and/or process and in strategic environmental assessment” and
“Akwé: Kon Voluntary Guidelines”.
also urge the Japanese government to acknowledge that its current Environment
Impact Assessment (EIA) does not function effectively because it gives the
foremost priority to the execution of projects, not to the conservation of the
V The Japanese Government’s (Non-) Response
to the International Community’s Calls
urge the Japanese government, as the Chair of COP10, to respond to the international
community’s calls, namely the IUCN’s Recommendations and Resolution and UN
Human Rights Committee’s Recommendations on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.
The Japanese government has not implemented the IUCN’s Recommendations
(2.72 and 3.114) and Resolution (4.022) regarding Conservation of Dugong, Okinawa
Woodpecker, and Okinawa Rail. Nor has it responded to the recommendations by
the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination, which call on the Japanese government to recognized
Ryukyu/Okinawan people as an indigenous people.
The Japanese government’s continuing disregard for these international
calls gives a negative message to the world that Japan is driving biodiversity
loss and ignoring indigenous peoples’ rights, which the CBD regards important.
We urge the Japanese government, as the Chair of COP10, to respond to
these international community’s calls without further delay.
VI The Japanese Government’s Accountability for
their Policy on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity
call on the Japanese government, as the Chair of COP10, to provide at COP 10
explanations for the inconsistencies between its policies on marine and
coastal biodiversity and its actions undertaken in Okinawa.
To prevent negative impacts
of overfishing and development projects on marine and coastal eco-systems and
to enhance the sustainable use of oceanic resources, the Japanese government
now tries to establish a “Marine Biodiversity Conservation Strategy” scheduled
to be issued in March 2011. The Japanese government is also expected to show
its leadership as the Chair of COP10, when Agenda “Marine and Coastal Biodiversity”
is taken up as one of the issues for in-depth consideration at COP10.
it should be pointed out that the Japanese government’s plans actions in Okinawa
are inconsistent with its national policies and its expected role as the Chair
Target 10: By , to have minimized the multiple
pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate
change or ocean acidification, so as to maintain their integrity and
functioning”. The Japanese government is proceeding with the new US base
construction plan in Henoko and Oura Bay in Okinawa Island. This area presents
a vulnerable ecosystem while being one of the most biodiversity rich areas in
Okinawa. The process of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the base
construction plan is now almost complete although the process has ignored the
IUCN’s Recommendations and Resolution (stated in Recommendation V above).
Moreover, the Japanese government and local governments are carrying out the
Awase Tidal Flat Reclamation Project. The Awase Tidal Flat, expanding coastal
wetland off the eastern coast in Okinawa City, has rich biodiversity and meets
the criteria for Ramsar site under the Ramsar Wetland Convention.
In “The Goals and Targets of
the Strategic Plan for the Period 2011-2020”, Parties are expected to set “
We strongly oppose the
Japanese government’s policies and actions which are destroying the
biodiversity rich coastal and marine ecosystem and environments of
Okinawa. The government should be held
accountable for these inconsistencies between its national policies and polices
and actions taken in Okinawa. We hope
the Japanese government will stop these projects and prove that Japan is a
country committed to the principles of biodiversity conservation. Otherwise, the Japanese government will be
regarded as a country with “double standard” on biodiversity policy and action,
and as the Chair of COP10 in name only. We recommend that Japanese government
should recognize that only its sincere and consistent efforts to conserve
biodiversity in Japan can contribute to conservation at the global level and to
the achievement of CBD’s “Goals and Targets of the Strategic Plan”.
VII Regional Biodiversity Strategy
recommend the Japanese government and the Okinawa prefectural government to:
up an action plan for establishing regional biological strategy with
effective institutional framework and appropriate financial support;
citizens’ participation and dialogue with local authorities in establishing
regional biodiversity strategy.
As seen in COP9 decision IX/28 “Promoting engagement of cities and
local authorities”, local action such as establishing a regional biodiversity
strategy is needed for biodiversity conservation. In Japan, however, only 10 local authorities
have established regional strategies, because the Basic Act on Biodiversity
does not legally obligate local authorities to establish regional biological
strategy, and because the Japanese government does not necessarily provide
financial support for local authorities to establish regional biodiversity
The Okinawa Region Working Group is making efforts to work with the
Okinawa prefectural government in establishing its Okinawa Regional Strategic
Plan. We however see a large gap between citizens and NGOs who are eager to
participate in the process and the prefectural government which seems rather
reluctant to the idea of civil participation for various reasons. We find it
difficult to bridge the gap between the two sides.
To establish an effective and
community-rooted strategy, we make the following recommendations to the Okinawa
We recommend the Japanese government to amend the Basic Act on
Biodiversity so that the establishment of regional biodiversity strategy is
legally required of local authorities and the participation of citizens in the
process of designing the strategy is legally ensured.
1) For biodiversity conservation in
Okinawa, thorough research on the status and trends of local biodiversity is needed. We recommend the Okinawa
prefectural government to provide,
within the framework of regional biodiversity strategy, a support system and mechanism, including institutional and
financial support, for sustained research activity.
Local people are key conservationists in their communities and they need to
learn more about their local
biodiversity. We recommend the Okinawa
prefectural government to establish,
within the framework of regional biodiversity strategy, a monitoring system of biodiversity with involvement of
local communities. Such a monitoring system can be a key instrument for raising awareness of biodiversity among
local communities as well as for educating
the value of “diversity of places”, which supports various kinds of species.
We also recommend the Okinawa prefectural government to develop a feedback
system in which outcomes of
monitoring, as well as local people’s knowledge and experience, are incorporated into the prefectural government’s
environmental and biodiversity
polices. We recommend the Okinawa prefectural government to ensure that research, monitoring and assessment
activities should not be easily outsourced to “consulting
companies” and that any decision-making process, regarding policy and activity, should involve dialogue with and
participation of citizens.
4) We recommend the
Okinawa prefectural government to establish a legally binding biodiversity strategy, which promotes laws
and systems (such as protected areas and local EIA),
more suitable and more appropriate to the vulnerable island ecosystem than
other mainland-centered biodiversity
Engagement with the Convention on Biological Diversity
We urge citizens and local communities to:
-recognize that citizens and communities are most
important agents in understanding/interpreting and achieving the objectives
of the CBD;
-actively take part in various activities of and
engage with the CBD.
While the CBD is an international body and CBD COP10
is a government-level meeting, we encourage citizens and communities to realize
that we are the ones who live closest to the local biodiversity, thereby, are most
important agents in realization of objectives of the CBD.
As discussed in
Recommendation III above, the Japanese government emphasizes aspects of
environment only in its approach to biodiversity at the national level and does
not incorporate the perspectives of peace and human rights in its efforts. This
is in contrast to the approach of the Okinawa Region Working Group, which
carries out activities with the core principles of “Environment”, “Peace”, and “Human
Rights”. Since the Okinawa Regional Working
Group’s principles do not fit in well with the approaches taken by the Japanese
government, the Japanese government
often regards and treats the Okinawa Region Working Group as an “exception”
among Japanese environment NGOs,
Such views and attitudes
shown by the Japanese government would
deprive citizens and communities of opportunity to share experience and exchange
views with other citizens and communities in pursuit of biodiversity
We believe that State/Government should not limit citizens
and local communities in their efforts to understand, interpret, and engage
with the CBD. We also believe that State/Government should not create a
central-marginal relationship in implementing the CBD’s policy.
We recommend citizens and communities to recognize
that, by pursuing understanding and interpretation of the CBD in their own
ways, citizens and communities play an positive and important role not only in
realization of objectives of the CBD, but also in formation of future
objectives of the CBD.
Okinawa Region Working Group
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Okinawa Region Working Group