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Law Enacted to Recognize Ethnic Ainu Minority as Indigenous People
April 25 – May 8, 2019

Japan enacted on Friday legislation aimed at protecting and promoting the culture of the Ainu, an ethnic minority in northern Japan, with financial assistance, stipulating for the first time they are an "indigenous" people.

The law requires the central and local governments to promote Ainu culture and industry, including tourism, in order to correct long-standing socioeconomic disparities faced by the group. But some Ainu have criticized the legislation, saying it will not do enough to reverse historical discrimination.

Although the law was enacted amid a rise of global awareness about promoting and protecting minority rights, it does not stipulate rights to self-determination and education for the Ainu despite both rights being acknowledged in the 2007 U.N. declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
Four countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States voted against the UN declaration in 2007, but reversed their positions and now support the Declaration. The United States become the last nation to drop its opposition when President Obama announced it would reverse the Bush administration position in 2010.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the government of Hokkaido, the percentage of Ainu advancing to universities stood at 33.3 percent, over 10 points lower than averages in their resident areas.

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