About aikiharahunt

Ai Kihara-Hunt is Associate Professor at the Graduate Program in Human Security, Director of International Law Training and Research Hub, and Director, Research Center for Sustainable Peace, the University of Tokyo. She also serves as Secretary at the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS). She is a Human Rights/Security Sector Reform Specialist. She has obtained PhD in Law at the University of Essex with her research on individual criminal accountability of UN Police personnel. She has worked for the United Nations (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; UNHCR; Peacekeeping missions; Truth Commission; Mine Action Centre) in numerous countries including Nepal, East Timor/Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, UK and Japan.

Advancing human rights while fighting Corona virus

My blog article on advancing human rights in the fight against Corona virus is up on our International Law Training and Research Hub, the University of Tokyo. The whole article is available here.


Below is in relation to education:

… One more pertinent issue I would like to raise, as an academic at the University of Tokyo, is the confluence of the right to education with changes in classes due to Covid-19. The closing of schools and educational institutions, along with the switch to online classes, is necessary for public health and is legitimate under Human Rights Law (HRL), as certain rights can be suspended temporarily. HRL stipulates that special measures should remain proportionate to the aim sought, in addition to keeping in mind that the effect of a single measure is invariably experienced differently among various groups.

And while questions of economic status, computer availability, and internet access at home have been repeatedly discussed, there are many other questions worth asking: do students have family obligations at home? Are they allowed to study at home, and is there an enabling environment? Are there issues that they cannot discuss openly at home? Are there time periods when certain groups cannot study?

Moreover, the viability of new forms of learning must be examined. Can students learn as effectively through online or other means? Were they given sufficient instruction and time to get accustomed? Can we expect the same type and level of computer literacy for students? How is the strength of interactive classes and seminars substituted? Are students given sufficient opportunity to learn from their peers while they are off campus?

Again, institutions must account for their policies’ lopsided effects on certain groups. Do different genders or age groups have different difficulties? Do foreign students have access to sufficient and accurate information in the language they understand? Can hearing or visually impaired students make the most of what is provided? Is the institution making sufficient considerations for infected students? What about those who are subject to travel restrictions or in different time zones?

It is definitely not easy to cater to all needs, but that is not a valid reason to hastily brush these questions under the carpet. The key to effective policy involves flexibility – adjustments in consultation and discussion with students need to be on the table.

Semi-Finals and Nomination for Best Speaker: Jean Pictet Competition on International Humanitarian Law

This year our International Law Training and Research Hub at the University of Tokyo sent a team for the first time toJean Pictet Competition – the world competition on the knowledge, understanding and implementation of International Humanitarian Law.

The University of Tokyo team is Amishi Agrawal, Paul Hwa Namkoong and Fei Tong. The team has won the first prize at the Japan national round, got the first prize in Asia regional round, and now they were invited to join Jean Pictet 34th edition in Bali, Indonesia. 45 teams have gathered from all over the world, including Essex University, which I graduated from.

Our team is consisted of 2nd year undergraduate students. Two of them had no background whatsoever on international law in April 2019, when they first came to my class. Over the year, through two class modules and intensive training sessions, they have really got very interested in the subject, and they learned!

I am very pround to say that the University of Tokyo team has gone to the semi-finals.

Pictet 34-5

They did not get through to the finals. It did cross my mind that the University of Tokyo and Essex teams – my current and previous institutions – meeting in finals. It is very well done, team.

I also see that Amishi was nominated for getting a prize for the best speaker, although she did not get the actual prize.


Pictet 34-3

It is always very rewarding to see the next generation getting excited about what I am excited about – in international law and its protection of people.


The End of Refugee Law?


Graduate Program on Human Security (HSP) at the University of Tokyo hosted a seminar entitled ‘the End of Refugee Law’, with guest lecturer Prof. David Cantor of University of London. He discussed the refugee law and world refugee regime facing difficulties but reviewing Refugee Law does provide direction as to refugee protection. He emphasized that recent moves on international cooperation, including the Global Compact and Global Refugee Forum, are positive in that fairness in refugee protection regime is put in the forefront.

Myself as a commentator presented on three thoughts. One is that International Refugee Law (IRL) in a narrow sense centered around Refugee Convention can be and sometimes is used as a limit to human rights, and human rights law can be and sometimes used as a limit to rights of refugees. Second is the concept of rule of law can strengthen refugee protection but can also limit refugee protection. Third is States’ resort to humanitarian status in lieu of refugee status can be understood either as their firm belief in IRL or outdated nature of IRL. All in all, IRL seems to be very relevant to States.

Detailed report of the seminar by Amishi Agrawal is out on our International Law Training and Research Hub.

17 November JAHSS/JASID Conference – Global Governance Panel

In the JAHSS/JASID conference on 16-17 November, I moderated a fantastic panel on global governance. Below is my summary for the conference report.


Global Governance Panel, 17 November 2019

In the Global Governance Panel, First, Mr. Sayid Abdullaev spoke about his own experience as a refugee in the US. He spoke of two reactions he saw in people: one of fear for having someone different, and the other one was sympathy for his situation. He shared his initiative to change the perception of people towards refugees, involving young people and making a social movement. He worked for the United Nations, focusing on the World Humanitarian Summit and youth activation programs. He has founded multiple initiatives for refugee empowerment, youth for peace, and LGBTQ. He stressed the importance of involving refugees themselves in all initiatives involving refugees.


Next, Dr. Naoko Hashimoto of Hitotsubashi University, discussed pros and cons of proliferation of resettlement and ‘new ways’ of admitting refugees. Resettlement provides refugees with a durable solution, but an analysis of resettlement policies shows diversity of policies: while many host States are focusing on people’s vulnerability, a few States are focusing almost exclusively on their prospect of integration. Increasingly, resettlement is unclear in its quantity, selection criteria and process. Moreover, it may be argued that resettlement is used as an alternative to granting asylum. There are additionally ‘new forms’ of refugee admission, such as work permit, student visa, family reunification and private sponsorship, some of which allow taking in refugees without formally accepting them as refugees. It is questionable whether they appropriately complement refugee protection mechanism rather than diluting refugees’ rights.


Lastly, Prof. Eiji Oyamada of Doshisha University reported that globalization made corruption into a different shape. Corruption is now seen as a global issue, and corruption needs to be tackled through implementation of SDGs and international or regional agreements. Opportunities for corruption during humanitarian operation are many and systematic, but the existence of non-financial forms of corruption make it difficult to trace corruption systematically.


The panel was moderated by Dr. Ai Kihara-Hunt of the University of Tokyo.


(316 words)

Congratulations to my team IHL Moot Court Japan 2019

On 30 November and 1 December, there was IHL Moot Court competition Japan round 2019. The University of Tokyo had a team, which I coached.

The moot problem this time was very well written and brought up a lot of issues – what is the required control by a State over an armed group for IAC to exist, evidential standards for pre-trial and trial chambers, how sure should the attacker be about the identity of the target when they attack humanitarian convoys (for satisfying elements of war crime), how to establish ordering of no quarters with ambiguous orders, and many more technical and interesting questions.

The University of Tokyo’s team was headed by a second-year student, with two students who were in their first year when I started teaching a class back in April. They thrived with this challenge.

I am so proud of this team, who rose to the challenge and won the first prize at this IHL Moot Court competition.

Congratulations, and we will continue our effort for the Asia Regional Round in Hong Kong in March 2020.

Here is the team, from right to left, Mr. Issa Shiraishi (team member), Mr. Jan Romer (ICRC Asia Pacific Legal Advisor), Ms. Tong Fei (team member), Mr. Paul Hwa Namkoong (team member), and myself (coach).

IHL Moot Japan 1st prize with chief judge

Plenary at the JAHSS/JASID Conference on Refugees, Migrants, Education and Employment 16 November 2019

JAHSS JASID conference plenary

Plenary panel summary of the JAHSS-JASID joint conference on refugees, migrants, education and employment, summary report:

The plenary panel analyzed the global and Japanese trends on refugees and migrants. It was moderated by Dr. Ai Kihara-Hunt, the University of Tokyo.


First, Dr. Jeff Crisp of Oxford University identified recent global trends in relation to refugees and displaced people, and suggested that these trends created a “global refugee crisis.” He argued that the international community had been too slow in addressing this situation. Dr. Crisp explained the importance of the Global Compact on Refugees, while identifying its weaknesses and limitations. He suggested that progress is being made at the operational level, in terms of the way that UNHCR and other actors are meeting the needs of refugees.


Next, Ambassador Eva Åkerman Börje of International Organization for Migration spoke about the Global Compact for Migration. She introduced key figures on migration and preceding initiatives of the international community leading to the Global Compact (endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 2018). She referred to the contents of the Compact focusing on improving cooperation. She explained that its implementation is not static and introduced various networks for its implementation.


Following that, Prof. Saburo Takizawa, former Representative of UNHCR Japan Office, addressed the Japanese context for refugees and migrants. He explained that three drivers exist: economic driver as a pull factor, social driver as a push-back factor, and political driver that balances the two. He made a critical evaluation of Japan’s policy and society that Japan lacks humanity. The presenter then argued that Japan’s new immigration policy shows a paradigm shift.


Commentator Dr. Diana Kartika of the University of Tokyo introduced factors for Singapore’s closed-door policy, and stressed the importance of whole-of-society approach. She highlighted shortcomings in terms of inclusive education for migrants and displaced persons, and stressed the importance of addressing their pathways to employment.

Congratulations – IHL Role Play Asia Regional Round

71917940_10157892311222853_5535478031474229248_nOn 16-17 November, there was International Humanitarian Law Role Play competition, Asia Regional Round. The team from the University of Tokyo, the winner of the Japan National Round (September 2019) joined the competition as the representative of Japan.

I, the coach for the team, could not accompany the team, as I was part of the organizing committee for a big international conference – JASID/JAHSS joint conference on Refugees, Migrants, Education and Employment – on the same dates.

Teams representing different countries in Asia competed for their knowledge and understanding of IHL, playing various roles in given scenarios. After general rounds, teams were selected for semi-finals, then finals, and our team won the first prize!

The team had no knowledge of international law when we started our class in April. Congratulations, team, and there is a next step – Jean Pictet competition in February/March 2020, as the winner of the Asia Regional Round.

All the best of luck to the team, we will practice further.

Thank you very much for all those who made this possible.

16-17 Nov Conference on Refugees/Migrants and Education at the University of Tokyo (Komaba Campus)

16-17 November – JAHSS/JASID conference on refugees/migrants and education – is a must-go event! We have Prof. Jeff Crisp (Oxford Refugees Studies Centre), Ms. Eva Akerman-Borje (IOM) and Prof. Saburo Takizawa (former UNHCR-Japan rep) on our keynote panel. I have an honour of moderating the keynote panel.

Another panel I am moderating – the Global Governance Panel – has an amazing group of speakers. A great analyst on the refugee protection machinery in Japan, Dr. Naoko Hashimoto, Global Governance Futures member and Google, Sayid Abdullaev, and Prof. Eiji Oyamada, Japan’s leading scholar on corruption.

There is an amazing line-up of leading academics and practitioners, as well as a series of exciting side events.

I will be presenting on the influence of sexual exploitation and abuse (both on the incidents of SEA and the UN’s way to tackle SEA) on policing.

Please see below for more information.

More details here:

There is even a childcare service for a very modest fee and a prayer room (for those unfamiliar with the situation in Japan, this is absolutely amazing for Japan standard!)

See you all there!

Seminar on sexual exploitation and abuse in UN Peace Operations – The University of Tokyo: Humanities Center

On 9 August, Humanities Center of the University of Tokyo organized our seminar on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in UN Peace Operations. This is part of my project jointly conducted with Dr. Marsha Henry of London School of Economics and Social Science (Interim Director, Centre for Women, Peace and Security).

It is great to get expert opinion from social, institutional and gender perspective how SEA persists due to reasons beyond individual misconduct. My part is on how criminal, disciplinary and administrative accountability is pursued and how effective the mechanisms are, focusing on the role of the UN in ensuring that accountability is delivered.

Thank you very much for those who came in the heat to our seminar. Special thanks to the Humanities Center for funding this project and hosting this event. And of course, thank you Marsha for joining this project.

Seminar 9august2019

My ACUNS speech on Security and Development

Summary of my presentation made at the Plenary II (Crime, Security and Development) the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) annual meeting 2019, held on 19-21 July 2019 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, is as follows. Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Dr. Ai Kihara-Hunt, Associate Professor at the Graduate Program on Human Security, the University of Tokyo, presented at the Plenary Panel III, focusing on crime, conflict and development. The other panelists were Mr. Kwesi Aning, Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs & Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, and Mr. Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director Division for Policy Analysis and Public Information, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The questions given to the speaker were: ‘where do crimes and conflict come in development, and more specifically in Sustainable Develpoment Goals (SDGs), and what are the roles of different actors?’ Dr. Kihara-Hunt addressed a slightly broader question of the relationship between security and development, and the roles of UN actors in the area between security and development. She first addressed what the relationship between development and development was and is before and after SDGs. Second, she discussed how the UN’s approach related to security fit in that, including actors involved. Last, she drew conclusion on SDG’s contribution to the link between security and development, remaining challenges and the way forward.

Until recently, security and development were treated as separate areas with inquiries into the impact of development on crimes and violence. Less inquiry was made on the impact of crimes and violence on development. One important thing to consider is the notion of development in modern terms. Development has a colonial origin based on asymmetric power relationship between its giver and taker. With the shift of the notion of development, with economic liberalization in the 1980s and capability approach in the 1990s, economic growth became something that is only desirable if it enhances ‘what people are effectively able to do and be, improved the quality of life, and remove any obstacles so that people have more freedom to conduct the kind of life that, upon reflection, have reason to value’. With this evolution, the idea of social justice and individual freedom flourished. This is the foundation that UNDP Human Development Report was launched, and that Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) were crafted. In this trend, the mutual influence between development and security started to be recognized, most notably in the Larger Freedom, where security, development and human rights were all interconnected. In the meantime, security started to be acknowledged to be not only State security, or hard security, but also human security. Of note is that human security has subjective measurement and a significant focus on vulnerable groups. At the same time, development actors started to be increasingly worried about securitization of development goals.

SDGs were drafted against that background. SDG 16, often called ‘peace goal’, aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Its targets deals with all violence, inclusive of conflict and non-conflict violence, organized crimes and other crimes, and security issues in public and private spheres alike. These targets are measured by objective and subjective indicators, including individual feelings regarding safety and perception of public service. Violence and crimes in SDGs are not only in its Goal 16 but in multiple other goals, including sexual violence, environmental crimes and green criminology, wild life trafficking, illegal fishing and poaching. In achieving these goals, law enforcement would play a crucial role. Other goals address mitigation of forced labour and improving work environment, and in such areas, law enforcement can work as an important enforcer. In the same document, poverty reduction, inequalities, health and education are aimed. It is noticeable that SDGs talk of peace and development. In this context, would peace be security plus human rights, if one uses the language of In Larger Freedom? The language of SDGs seems to indicate both securitization of development and development actors’ concern about it. It does include major elements of human security, but explicit referral was carefully avoided.

How does the UN’s approach fit in it, then? The UN has largely been approaching security in two different parts: peace operations as response to conflicts, and crimes and organized crimes through agencies and offices including UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNODC. In both streams, stopping crimes and violence was of a relatively short term, responsive nature, and building state institutions was of a longer term, preventive nature. Recently, though, the division became less rigid, and cross-cutting issues have started to be picked up. With the change of the type of conflicts, of violence and of security issues, as well as the change of approach from State security to human security, more comprehensive approach, combining force across sectors started to be more common. Peace operations address Security Sector Reform (SSR), institution building and deals with organized crimes, while UNDP steps in immediately after, or sometimes even during the conflict. In a more recent years, in particular in Africa, while the UN tries to focus on prevention, different reality was that the UN had to work on immediate response to stop violence, which can be seen in stabilization missions. Protection of Civilians (POC) in physical terms, while not the primary focus of the UN, has been very necessary on the ground.

What are actors in UN Peace Operations in all these activities? Within Peace Operations, often contribution of military contingents is discussed, but it is submitted that the police has a central role. The UN Police has about 30 percent of individual police that works on investigation, community policing, capacity building and prevention side of POC. The other 70 percent is deployed in the form of formed police units (FPUs), to work on tasks that require coordinated approach, including physical protection in the area of POC.

When one sees SDGs contribution in the link between security and development, the first thing that is noticeable may be that SDGs showed the complex dynamics of security to the world. As was already mentioned, SDGs discussed violence in conflict and non-conflict, organized and individual crimes, in public and private spheres, with objective and subjective indicators. Violence reduction was presented as a global goal and not just a problem of developing countries. SDG approaches these targets with best-practice approach, which managed to appeal to policy makers of various types of countries. SDGs are also sold as something for everyone with responsibility of everyone. Security and inequality issues are dealt with in the same document, as a global issue and not as a problem of countries and communities facing mass scale violence or inequality. SDGs are agreed as a shared goal, and one important shared goal is to bring security and development together.

However, SDGs have remaining challenges, too. One of them is that they are illustrated in the form of end goals and not means, which may leave the process requirement for equality behind. SDGs are framed as a declaration and responsibility by all, which could dilute accountability for non-delivery of commitments. Flexibility left in the document, understandably for getting agreement by maximum actors, can be detrimental to less powerful actors, depending on how that flexibility is implemented.

In order to address these challenges, it is all the more crucial that security and development work together. What is suggested is not securitization of development, or developmentization of security, but the cooperation between security and development with a conscious resort to human rights and the rule of law approach.