UNHCR requests collaboration with African Parliamentarians to end statelessness by 2024


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Southern Africa has told the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) that ending worldwide statelessness is an ambitious but achievable goal with strong momentum behind it.

At the March Committee Sittings held under the African Union’s (AU) theme of 2019, “The year of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons,” Deputy Regional Representative, Leonard ZULU, urged PAP to support efforts employed to end statelessness.

This challenge reportedly affects millions of people across the world, with devastating consequences that deprive them of legal rights or basic services; leaving them politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

“We have launched a Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 (#IBelongCampaign), and with UNICEF, we have formed a Coalition on Every Child’s Right to a Nationality,” Zulu announced.

The UNHCR believes that there is strong momentum and that all governments can contribute to this important goal by making firm pledges at the High-Level Event on Statelessness in Geneva in October 2019 to mark the mid-way point of the #IBelongCampaign.

Statelessness is a women’s and children’s rights issue where due to gender discrimination, mothers are unable to confer nationality to their children while all children have a right to a legal identity and to full belonging.

On the other hand, statelessness is also a youth issue as without a nationality and the legal rights associated with it, youth are particularly susceptible to forced/unpaid labour, trafficking, forced/early marriage and other forms of exploitation.

Zulu has however warned African Legislators that although ending statelessness is achievable, that human impact of statelessness is severe.

“While the enjoyment of most human rights should not be dependent upon having a nationality, in reality, without any nationality, stateless persons typically are not able to enjoy basic rights,” he concluded.

As MPs head back to their respective countries to prepare for a resolution or recommendation that the PAP Plenary would make during the Ordinary Session in May 2019, they are expected to continue to look deep into how statelessness affects socio-economic rights such as education, employment, social welfare, housing and healthcare, as well as civil and political rights such as freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary detention and political participation.