Miembros UIA | 23.06.2024

Overview of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA)


The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) set out its fundamental purposes under its “Mission Statement on International Affairs” established in February 2016. The JFBA then confirmed the current situation of the activities in a “Grand Design of International Strategy” in July 2019.

The fundamental purposes of this strategy concerning international activities may be divided into three categories:

(i) activities relating to the public interest, human rights, and achievement of the rule of law, including international human rights activities and international cooperation,

(ii) activities relating to the legal profession and the role of bar associations, including international exchange activities, and

(iii) activities to strengthen the structure of providing legal services to meet various legal needs in society, including promotion of international practices by attorneys and legal support for overseas business by small and medium-sized companies.

JFBA International Human Rights Activities

Japan experienced two periodical treaty reviews for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2022, and the Universal Periodic Review in January 2023.
The activities of the JFBA in this regard are summarized below, taking the ICCPR as an example. Under article 40(b) of the ICCPR, the JFBA submitted six reports regarding the 7th periodic report by the government of Japan since 2020 for review by the Human Rights Committee (“Committee”). The JFBA dispatched delegate members engaged in human rights activities to Geneva to communicate with stakeholders and share information with the Committee.
The Committee adopted the concluding observations at its 136th session on October 28, 2022 and recommended Japan, among others, to accede to the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which provides for the consideration by the Committee of individual communications, the establishment of an independent national human rights institution following the Paris Principles, and the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. With these concluding observations, the JFBA organized an event at the House of Representatives in January 2023 to make the most of the concluding observations and invited politicians, government officials, and NGOs.

International Cooperation Activities

The JFBA aids bar associations in developing countries, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Indonesia, China, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, and Cote d’Ivoire. The JFBA sends instructors to seminars organized by various domestic organizations that invite overseas trainees and dispatch members to the above-listed countries as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) long-term experts. From November 2019 to September 2022, the JFBA implemented a project in collaboration with bar associations in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to improve access to justice in those countries.

International Exchange Activities

The JFBA is a member of six international organizations: the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), the International Bar Association (IBA), The Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA), the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA), and the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA).
The JFBA also operated the information center that provides information for The Conference of the Presidents of Law Associations in Asia (POLA) member organizations. Furthermore, the JFBA Secretary-General is individually a member of the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives (IILACE).
In addition, the JFBA has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with overseas bar organizations. The JFBA closely communicates with those organizations and dispatches representatives to their annual meetings, where it also organizes bilateral meetings with the bar organizations during the annual meetings. Face-to-face communications were suspended or slowed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic; however, in 2022, the JFBA gradually began to attend in-person meetings in line with global trends.  

The JFBA participated in the UIA Congress. In 2021, thanks to the UIA, the JFBA had an opportunity to organize the “Asian Lawyers Forum,” where the panels had a discussion on the movement of workers in Asia.

Promotion of International Practices

To promote the internationalization of the JFBA and meet various legal needs in society, the JFBA provides an overseas visiting scholar program for the member lawyers who are engaged in public-interest activities, including those related to the rule of law, access to justice, human rights protection, international cooperation, and contribution. More than 80 members have been sent to overseas universities with which the JFBA signed MOUs.
The study themes of the scholars include the relationship between regulation of freedom of expression and crime or criminals, cyber harassment based on racial and gender discrimination, the rights of indigenous people, law and development to promote the rule of law, modalities of legal interpretation, and criminal defense advocacy.
The JFBA also provides support to members who have an interest in providing international public services, such as international organizations, public offices, and NGOs. The JFBA organizes events to provide information, sets up consultation desks, and provides opportunities for internship at the Japan office of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

By Mariko Matsumura
Shinwa Law
Tokyo, Japan