Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tilburg hosts successful pilot of statelessness course

Between the 23rd and the 27th July, a bright sunny Tilburg welcomed the gathering of thirty participants and eight lecturers assembling to discuss the phenomenon of statelessness.  The first Summer School on Statelessness, an initiative by the Statelessness Programme at Tilburg Law School and the Open Society Justice Initiative, successfully provided a stimulating curriculum and atmosphere for all involved.  Through lectures, case-studies, discussions and group-work the Course covered many of the topical theoretical and practical issues stemming from the notion of statelessness. The Course equally draw significantly from the participants experiences which came from around the world, including Burundi, Kazakhstan, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico and Slovenia amongst many others, and which ranged from differing fields, such as UNHCR, NGO’s, academia, and government.

Over the past few years the international community has witnessed a growing concern of the true magnitude and impact of statelessness, however, much work remains to be done in terms of developing a full understanding of the phenomenon and importantly in building the required capacity to address some of the attached problems.  It was with these two gaps in mind that the Statelessness Summer Course provided an interesting forum in offering a unique opportunity for learning, reflecting and discussing the challenges that statelessness presents and, importantly, trying to develop tangible strategies to work on the issue.  Beginning with a reflection on the concept of statelessness and nationality, the course went on to deal with legal and policy issues associated with statelessness such as the status of stateless persons, their human rights and right to international protection and ways to research and document statelessness.   The course included smaller team work on regional issues where participants were able to tailor the knowledge they had acquired towards trends and issues that affected their regions.

Lecturers also came from a varied background with differing focuses, enriching further the debate.  These included Prof. Dr. Gerard-René de Groot Professor of Law at the Universiteit Maastricht,   Gábor Gyulai from  the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Julia Harrington Reddy and Sebastian Kohn from the  Equality and Citizenship program at the Open Society Justice Initiative, Mark Manly head of the Statelessness Unit at UNHCR, Dr. Benyam Mezmur research fellow at the University of Western Cape, Prof. Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree lecturer at the Institute of Human Rights Studies and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand and Zahra Albarazi from the Statelessness Programme.  These experts had a mélange of academic knowledge and practical and regional experience to offer.

The most interesting feature was the way in which participants and the lecturers were able to benefit from the knowledge and professional experience of both the lecturers and their fellow participants.  The week concluded with an action-oriented session which saw the participants discuss how they plan to work more on this issue following the end of the Course.  We are looking forward to following up on how these proposed initiatives develop and are excited that the course has been successful in developing a strong and enthusiastic network of future advocators.

We would like to thank everyone who took part and hope to be able to welcome a new group to Tilburg at a future edition of the Statelessness Summer Course!

Zahra Albarazi, Statelessness Programme, Tilburg Law School

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