The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, provides that: “Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality” (Article 15). Since then, the framework of international human rights law has gradually strengthened the rules that ensure that this right is respected and reduce the discretion of states in deciding who are their nationals.
Two early treaties adopted by the UN specifically focus on the right to a nationality: the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. In addition, all the international human rights treaties targeting various forms of discrimination mention the right to a nationality.
The African human rights system also provides important guarantees for the right to a nationality, especially in Article 6 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. A proposed Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights would establish detailed guidance on the content of national laws.