Japanese Civil Society Groups Helping Support Refugee Entrepreneurs

Japanese Civil Society Groups Helping Support Refugee Entrepreneurs

Japan is well-known for its hostility to immigration. Although the Japanese government has begun to open the doors to professionals, it doesn’t accept low skilled migrant workers (except on temporary work visas) and is very reluctant to receive refugees.

Japan’s closed-door policy was not affect by 2015’s refugee crisis. While countries like the United States, Canada, and Venezuela have received tens to thousands of asylum seekers, Japan announced that it will only take 150 Syrian students, and their families, in five years. Although this is a significant step forward, it is still far too few.

Japanese Contrasting Attitudes

Academics, media, and NGOs have all criticised the gap between Japan’s passive attitude to refugees and providing enough support and its proactive commitment beyond its borders.

Japan is a major donor to UN refugee agency. Prime Minister Shinzo abe announced a number of actions at the Leaders Summit in New York in September 2016, including US$2.8 billion for refugees and host communities. Despite this substantial financial commitment, the nation’s acceptance rate for refugees is extremely low (less than 1 percent of all applications in 2015).

Only 27 of the 3,898 Japanese asylum claims were granted last year. Eight asylum seekers appeal against the refusal to accept their claims in previous years were include in this figure. The total number of people granted special status to remain in Japan for humanitarian reasons is just over 100.

The ability to work is not restrict for refugees. However, asylum seekers cannot work if they have sought asylum and are legally resident in Japan.

People seeking asylum who have lost their travel documents are taken to an immigration detention center. Some might be grant temporary release or allow to remain outside the center. They are still unable work.

The Civil Society Takes Action

Due to the limitations of asylum seekers and refugees, Japanese businesses and civil society are slowly moving to accept refugees, and assist them in starting their own business.

Entrepreneurship Support Program for Refugee Empowerment (ESPRE) is a Tokyo-based non-profit organization that has grant microfinance refugee loans by the government. ESPRE, in partnership with Japan Association for Refugees and Social Venture Partners Tokyo provides support and business advice to refugees entrepreneurs and loans them up to a million yen ($8,800).

ESPRE has funded projects ranging from trading businesses to food services. An example: In 2012, ESPRE supported the opening of a Myanmar restaurant in Tokyo by a former Burmese university lecturer who sought asylum in Japan after more than 20 years.

Minami Masakazu, a Vietnamese refugee who fled her home in Japan as a teenager, was also help to open a popular Vietnamese restaurant in the capital. ESPRE also assisted a Pakistani entrepreneur to export used Japanese cars. His company started in Mozambique and has since expanded to other countries.

The idea of supporting refugees through entrepreneurship is also attractive to corporations. Uber Japan launched a campaign asking its customers to donate in 2014 to ESPRE. An anonymous tax accountant provides pro bono services for refugee entrepreneurs, according Masaru Yoshiyama, director of ESPRE.

Many Japanese Benefits

Researchers and practitioners who work with refugees have highlighted the positive effects. That entrepreneurship has on refugees and their host communities.

It empowers refugees in the first place. People can feel helpless and lost if they rely on government assistance. They can regain their independence and confidence by starting a business. Making money, and being a contributing member of their community.

ESPRE is a non-profit organization that helps Japanese entrepreneurs by funding projects and also lowers the language barrier. Japan is well-known for this. ESPRE hosts English-language orientation sessions in which accountants and business consultants explain how to operate a business in Japan.

It is also widely recognize that refugees can help boost local economies by creating jobs. For example, a Tokyo restaurant owner from Myanmar is now hiring students and refugees. Although this is not happening in Japan yet, refugees entrepreneurs often hire locals.

Furthermore, the engagement of refugees in self-generating activities can alter public perceptions that they are a societal burden. This reduces the negative sentiment towards refugees.

Tiny Nation That’s Leading Europe In Digital Innovation

Tiny Nation That’s Leading Europe In Digital Innovation

Estonian nation Big Brother just wants to help Citizens in this tiny nation of 1.3million people have overcome their fears of an Orwellian dystopia and become highly digitalized. With the e-Estonia State Portal, almost all government services made available online in 2003. It was not a meticulously plan master plan that led to digital governance in the country. Instead, it was a practical and cost-efficient solution to budget constraints.

After Estonia gained independence in 1991, citizens trusted their politicians. Politicians trust their engineers to build something new, despite not being obligate to using legacy software or hardware systems. This formula prove to be a winner and can now be use in all European countries.

The Principle Of The Once-Only Nation

Estonia’s digital governance introduced the once only principle. This means that the state cannot ask the same citizens twice for the same information. This means that if you provide your address or the name of a family member to the census bureau they will not ask you again. Any department of government agency cannot ask citizens to repeat information they have in their databases or those of another agency.

The transformation was overseen by Andrus Ansip, a tech-savvy former prime Minister and current Vice President at the European Commission. This once-only principle was such a success that the EU adopted a digital Once Only Initiative and Principle based on Estonian common-sense innovation. This ensures that citizens and businesses only provide certain standard information once. Public administration offices share the data internally, which reduces the burden on citizens and businesses.

It is a good strategy to ask for information once, and many countries have already started to apply this principle (e.g. Poland and Austria). This does not change the fact that asking for information is still a hassle to both citizens and businesses. The once-only principle doesn’t guarantee that data collected was required to be requested, or that it will be used to its full extent.

Twice-Mandatory Principle Nation

The government should be constantly brainstorming. For example, asking themselves if one agency might need this information and if others could benefit. What insights can we derive from this data beyond the need? Vernon Hill, a Financier, introduced a unique One to Say Yes, Two to Say No rule to establish Metro Bank UK. It takes one person to make the yes decision but two to say no. A second check is required if you are going to reject business.

Imagine how simple and effective a policy would be if governments learned this lesson. Imagine if all information from citizens and businesses could be used for at least two purposes. or two agencies to be considered worthy of requesting it. The Estonian Tax and Customs Board, which is perhaps not surprising given the reputation of tax offices in Estonia, shows the potential for such paradigm shifts. It launched a new strategy in 2014 to combat tax fraud. Each business transaction exceeding EUR1,000 must be report monthly to the entities.

Nation Administrative Burden

To minimise the administrative burden of this, the government introduce an application-programming interface that allows information to be automatically exchange between the company’s accounting software and the state’s tax system

Although there was some resistance from companies at the start, and the former president Toomas Henderik Ilves even vetoed an earlier version of the act in the media, the system was a huge success. Estonia exceeded its initial estimate of EUR30 millions in tax fraud reductions by more than twice.

Many countries, including Spain, Hungary, Romania, Hungary, Spain and Belgium. Have followed a similar approach to detecting and controlling tax fraud. The real value lies in analysing these data beyond fraud.

Analytics And Predictive Models

The next wave of government innovation will be dominate by big data, analytics, and predictive models. It might be possible, for example, to see the complex interdependencies among companies. If single transaction information pieces are compile to create a map of the larger national business context. This raises an interesting question. Could a national government also use the same digital tracking system?

Setting Up A Database Of International Businesses Operating

Setting Up A Database Of International Businesses Operating

There are hundreds of businesses that do business in more than 250 illegal settlements located in the occupied Palestinian territory. These settlements are subvention and maintained by Israel’s government. A database of businesses operating in these settlements will be create by the United Nations in December.

The database has been attack by Israel and the US and they want to stop its release. Danny Danon (Israel’s UN Ambassador) stated to The Associate Press that he would do all he could to prevent this list from being release.

Under the auspices of the UN Office of the Haut Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the database is being create. This initiative has been support by numerous international and local rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights. The database is a regulatory initiative under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Its purpose is to assist states and businesses in ensuring that they don’t benefit from or contribute to activities in Israel’s settlements.

After reportedly engaging with up to 150 companies, 60 of which are foreign and the remainder Israeli, the UN is expect to release the database in the first quarter of 2018. The UN must clarify the function of the database to protect its legitimacy and avoid criticism. It must also show that it is not a punitive tool but a vital resource that promotes transparency in business and allows states and businesses to comply with international law.

Respect For Human Rights Businesses

The recommendation from a UN fact-finding mission on Israel’s settlements in 2013 was the basis of the database. It was endorse by Human Rights Council in March 2016.

According to the March 2017 Human Rights Council resolution, businesses cannot take the necessary steps due to the irreversible nature of the negative impact their activities have on human rights in Israel’s settlements. All business transactions in Israel or relate to Israel’s Settlements contribute to illicit financial flows that cause by illegally taken property rights.

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 prompted the need to monitor Israeli and foreign businesses involvement in Israel’s Settlements. It declared that Israel’s settlement activity on occupied territory had no legal validity and was a violation of international law. Third states were ask to exempt settlement-base entities from any dealings with Israeli entities.

There have been 18 European government advisories warning businesses about the legal, economic, and financial risks associated with business activity in Israel’s settlements. A number of financial institutions, companies and pension funds have decided to stop operations in the Palestinian territories over recent years. These include a Danish bank, a Danish pension fund, a Norwegian government fund and a Dutch bank.

Not Punishment, But Engagement

The UN database can be use to document, report and engage primary interest parties. It is not authorize to adjudicate responsibility or act as a coercive instrument of law enforcement. Commentators calling it a blacklist, however, misrepresent it and undermine it’s legitimacy.

The database must be able engage with and cooperate with businesses. Operating in territories or their home states to maximize its effectiveness. It can’t afford to alienate its target audience by acting as an adjudicative, coercive or other type of body.

The OHCHR needs to learn from past UN-led efforts at listing businesses. Consider the UN Center for Transnational Corporations. Its mandate to report on South African businesses during Apartheid-era. South Africa was never given sufficient support as it was present under sanction. UN Panel on Plundering Resources in the DRC Produced a List of Businesses. But it was discredited for not gaining businesses cooperation.

It is certain that the UN database will become embroiled in political turmoil. Although it may not be the most important of its kind in the world. It could very well be the first to serve as a regulatory tool and encourage compliance with international law.

The database should be view as a pilot tool that can extend beyond. The Israel-Palestine setting to ensure international law respect. The database’s mechanism could also be use in other areas of the world. Where military occupation is use for permanent acquisition or transformation.