Mobilizing Governments and Civil Society
From 16 to 18 April, a Ministerial Conference on the Eradication of Statelessness in the Great Lakes Region took place in Nairobi, Kenya. It was organized by the Government of Kenya, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and UNHCR. The conference gathered representatives from 12 ICGLR Member States, inter-governmental bodies and civil society organizations who collectively reviewed the progress of ICGLR Member States under ICGLR’s Action Plan on the Eradication of Statelessness and shared indicative pledges in relation to the High-Level Segment on Statelessness. The conference also resulted in the extension of the ICGRL Action Plan to 2024 and the addition of two objectives related to legal identity documentation.
From 6 to 8 May, the second regional workshop for the West African region was hosted by UNHCR in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to prepare for the High-Level Segment on Statelessness. The workshop was attended by delegates from 14 of the 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Member States, ECOWAS and Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, as well as UNICEF, the World Bank, and representatives from civil society. The meeting resulted in a set of country-specific indicative pledges which have been submitted to relevant ministries for further consideration. Member States also shared their achievements to date.
On 4 July, UNHCR organized a regional preparatory meeting for the Middle East and North Africa region in Casablanca, hosted by Morocco. The meeting encouraged a coordinated regional approach and dialogue on best practices relevant to the ten actions of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness.
On 15 and 16 April, UNHCR and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized the bi-annual retreat of UNHCR and ECOWAS Ambassadors in Uyo, Nigeria. During the meeting, UNHCR sought support from the Ambassadors in advancing the regional agenda to end statelessness, including through concrete pledges to be made at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness.
During its plenary session from 6 to 17 May, the Pan-African Parliament adopted a resolution on the eradication of statelessness in Africa. The resolution calls on States to reform nationality laws to ensure that every child born or found on a State’s territory will acquire the nationality of that State if the child would otherwise be stateless; to eliminate all forms of discrimination in nationality laws; to improve access to birth registration; and to adopt legislation that facilitates the recognition and documentation of nationality through simplified naturalization procedures. The Pan-African Parliament also urged States to coordinate actions to develop comprehensive regional strategies to address statelessness.
From 21 to 24 May, a national task force in Eswatini developed a National Action Plan to end statelessness, under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior and with UNHCR’s support. The plan foresees the removal of gender discriminatory provisions and granting nationality to children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless. The action plan was submitted to the Government for adoption.
Similarly, in May, a multifunctional task force established by the Ministry of Interior of Namibia developed a National Action Plan to end statelessness in the country. Based on the action plan, consultations on accession to the UN conventions on statelessness have been initiated.
Implementation of the Global Action Plan
With respect to Action 2, Ensure that no child is born stateless, UNHCR and the Ministry of Justice of Côte d’Ivoire organized a workshop on 11 and 12 April to prepare a circular instructing judges on the application of the 1961 Convention provision regarding foundlings. This follows a 2018 landmark court decision which granted Ivorian nationality to five foundlings. In June it was confirmed that an additional 28 foundlings were granted Ivorian nationality following a sensitization campaign carried out with judges from the cities of Katiola, Daloa and Abengourou.
With regard to Action 3, Remove gender discrimination from nationality laws, from 23 to 25 April Togo organized a validation workshop concerning draft amendments of the country’s nationality law. The main objective of the reform is to remove gender discrimination with regard to the conferral of nationality to children and foreign spouses. The anticipated reform also foresees statelessness safeguards related to the renunciation, loss and deprivation of nationality.
There continues to be significant activity in relation to Action 7, Ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness. On 15 May, UNHCR and the Government of Sudan signed a partnership agreement in relation to a project to promote access to birth registration for refugees, IDPs and persons at risk of statelessness. The project aims to issue birth certificates for 18,000 children and will include mobile registration campaigns for newborns, late birth registration, training and capacity building for civil registry offices, as well as support in the construction of a birth registration center in White Nile State.
Since June, refugee children born in Mauritania and living in urban centres can obtain birth certificates. In February 2018, the Government of Mauritania had already begun issuing birth certificates to Malian refugee children born in Mberra camp. The Government of Mauritania is now taking concrete steps to reduce the risk of statelessness through the delivery of birth certificates to all refugee children born in Mauritania.
From April to May, UNHCR supported the Government of Burkina Faso in holding mobile court hearings which issued 22,000 birth certificates to persons at risk of statelessness, with a focus on areas hosting forcibly displaced populations. In June, UNHCR started supporting the Government in issuing 34,000 birth certificates to populations at risk of statelessness in the central-eastern and central-southern regions. In May, UNHCR handed over equipment to the Ministry of Home Affairs to support birth registration in border regions.
In line with Action 10, Improve quantitative and qualitative data on stateless populations, the Kenyan government, UNHCR and partner organizations started preparations for the upcoming 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census with trainings for enumerators and sensitization campaigns. The census is expected to improve the identification of stateless persons in Kenya. Similarly, in Mali, the National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) organized a workshop to present the questionnaire for the upcoming census to relevant stakeholders. UNHCR is currently working with INSTAT to include questions on nationality and statelessness.
Finally, with regard to Action 10, workshops to validate studies on statelessness were conducted in a number of countries. On 10 April, a workshop was held in Abidjan to validate the country-wide statelessness mapping report for Côte d’Ivoire. The report is expected to be published after formal endorsement at the ministerial level. On 30 April, UNHCR and the Ministry of Home Affairs of Zambia organized a workshop validating a study on statelessness and issues relating to nationality in Zambia. On 26 June, the qualitative study on risks of statelessness in Mali was validated during a workshop in Bamako organized by UNHCR.
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