LThe news that the U.N. Human Rights Council has unanimously adopted a resolution by the Japanese government asking the council’s Advisory Committee to conduct further research on leprosy is a welcome one. It was a Japanese government resolution that set in motion the process that led to the 2010 U.N. General Assembly resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
The much-lauded principles and guidelines that accompanied the resolution are a road map to restoring the human rights of every person affected by leprosy, yet they have no binding authority. For that reason, the Nippon Foundation organized a series of symposiums on leprosy and human rights that led to the formation of an International Working Group to look at ways of encouraging states and other actors to implement them. The group has now produced its report containing its suggestions. It is to be hoped that the Advisory Committee will have taken due note when it reports back to the Human Rights Council in 2017.
The road to achieving full implementation of the principles and guidelines may seem a long and winding one, but progress is being made, slowly but surely. As the International Bar Association’s Tim Hughes said recently in Geneva, speaking of the 2010 U.N. resolution and what has been happening since, “That soft law is on its journey to becoming hard law.”