Eradicating statelessness in West Africa: ECOWAS, UNHCR and Côte d’Ivoire celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the Banjul Plan of Action

Published: 7/May/2019
Source: UNHCR

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire–This week, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire are celebrating the second anniversary of the Banjul Plan of Action, which was adopted in 2017 by ECOWAS Member States to eradicate statelessness in West Africa.

A stateless person is someone who does not have the nationality of any country. Statelessness affects millions of people worldwide, with devastating consequences that deprive them of their fundamental human rights and access to basic services, leaving them marginalized, discriminated against and particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Statelessness is caused by, among others, gaps in and conflicts of nationality laws, as well as State succession. The lack of birth registration and the lack of access to birth certificates also increase the risk of statelessness.

Since the 2014 launch of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024, West African states have made significant progress in terms of political commitment and concrete actions within the ECOWAS region.

In May 2017, West Africa became the first region worldwide to adopt a binding action plan (the Banjul Plan of Action), testimony of ECOWAS Member States’ commitment to end statelessness. Through the Banjul Plan of Action, the fifteen ECOWAS countries pledged to translate into concrete and measurable actions the Abidjan Declaration of February 2015, adopted by the Heads of ECOWAS Member States to eradicate statelessness in West Africa.

Among the commendable achievements in the fight against statelessness in West Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Togo have adopted National Action Plans to end statelessness. In August 2017, Burkina Faso acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, bringing to twelve the number of States in the region that are party to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions. In 2018 alone, Niger issued birth certificates to more than four million people. Burkina Faso finalized a major study on statelessness, which makes recommendations that form the starting point for a series of administrative and legislative measures to eradicate statelessness. In Côte d’Ivoire, a countrywide mapping exercise took place in 2018 and special laws were adopted in November 2018 to facilitate access to civil status documents. Such positive actions have been undertaken or are underway in most States of the region.

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Themes: Sub-regional Standards, Statelessness
Regions: Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger
Year: 2019