Tuesday, 30 July 2013

From on-the-ground research to international lobbying

Every year, several countries are reviewed by committees – or ‘treaty bodies’– attached to the major UN human rights conventions to ensure that they are abiding by their international obligations, and to question them when they are not. This happens on a rotating basis for countries across all of the different UN committees. Before the committees address the countries, they ask review the report prepared by the relevant government about how the international norms are being implemented. They also collect and review submissions from NGOs and other organizations as to what they think are the most pressing human rights issues in the state and what is needed to address them. NGOs have an added opportunity of physically attending the pre-sessions, making a short oral statement on identified problems and answering any questions the committee would like further information on. This July, three countries in the Middle East and North Africa that still retain an element of gender discrimination in their nationality laws, came up for review before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain. Although Iraq’s law is now greatly improved, none of these states fully grant mothers the right transfer nationality to their children on an equal par to men – a situation which can lead to new cases of statelessness.

This issue tied in perfectly with our recent research with the Women’s Refugee Commission, “Our Motherland, Our Country”. Continuing our joint follow-up advocacy , we considered this to be an ideal opportunity to talk to the CEDAW committee about the consequences of gendered nationality laws, specifically the problems that emerged from the findings of this report.  So, yesterday I was in Geneva to give the Statelessness Programme’s first ever briefing of a UN treaty body. After a mix-up of the starting times and length of session, things finally got going and I was invited to deliver  a short presentation. This was followed by some questions from the committee, to help them fill any gaps in knowledge they had on the issue. The presentation we had prepared contained quotes from some of the testimonials compiled during the WRC research, contextualizing the issue as a real humanitarian problem, and highlighting how family unity is being destroyed because of this discrimination in nationality laws. 

NGOs from around the world can come and talk about any state law or practise they feel is in violation of the convention, and they all do this together in the same briefing session. This provides a fascinating opportunity to understand more about other topics which often directly correlate to our own interests. A very active women's rights NGO from Iraq, for example, joined the same pre-session I attended and had a lot to say about Iraq’s flaws in adhering to its CEDAW obligations - they spoke about topics varying from the rise in cases of FGM to the lack of female representation in parliament.  We also learnt from them of the phenomenon of men who are identified as 'terrorists' in Iraq, who are forced therefore to live without the protection of the law and unable to conduct any legal transactions. Some (informally) marry, have children and often eventually abandon their families without any legal trace - leaving a new generation of children with no form of identification and putting them at risk of becoming stateless.

My time at the CEDAW pre-session allowed me to witness some interesting presentations and a lively question and answer session. It was clear that the Committee was very eager to hear the voices of people working on the ground and it was also very satisfying to find that the application and the procedure itself of briefing such a committee is very simple and easy to navigate. I admit that I went in with some doubts about this form of advocating for change, which seemed a rather abstract mechanism of lobbying, far away from lives of those we had met during the field research. However, actually, experiencing the process and seeing the real interest and enthusiasm of the committee and the NGOs involved, I came away newly inspired and would now firmly vouch for the importance and necessity of continued international pressure and support – alongside national initiatives – for the promotion of universally gender neutral nationality laws. We are really looking forward to seeing how the information we provided will feed into the review and questioning of these three countries by the committee.

Zahra Albarazi, Researcher and MENA statelessness expert, Statelessness Programme

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Potential for Microfinance in Stateless Communities

It has already been argued by Jason Tucker on this blog that microfinance could be helpful for stateless communities. My colleague Brian Colgan and I are currently doing research on if, and how exactly, microfinancial schemes could be applied in stateless communities. The answer is not self-evident as there are some necessary conditions that need to be fulfilled in order for microfinance to be viable at all and also some community specifics that would have to be taken into account while designing the programmes.

The basic conditions, for microfinance, have been outlined in a UNHCR guide as reasonable degree of security and safety, cash economy, access to local market, stability of population, and already existing informal financial services. These points should ensure the minimal underpinning framework required for a functional microfinance project.

Even such a modest set of requirements already excludes some groups that could otherwise profit from microfinance. The population of Rohingya in Myanmar is flowing to Bangladesh in large numbers and does not provide a firm base for such a project. Similarly, the stateless immigrants in Western Europe are a dispersed, heterogeneous group that could hardly be united under a single scheme of microcredits.

On the other hand, thanks to the popularity of microfinance in developing countries, there are stateless groups who can already access microcredits. They are, for example, Nubians in the Kibera slum, hill tribes from Northern Thailand, or Haitian descendants living in Dominican Republic. Such cases can serve us as an important source of experience. We intend to follow up on these groups, interview people from inside the communities, and study how the projects operate.

Ultimately, we want to focus on the stateless who cannot yet receive any formal loans or financial services. It has been observed on many occasions that the poor who lack such possibilities can manage the use and repayment of a loan surprisingly well. To some of them small loans would help stabilise their lives by smoothing out the irregularities in their income, to others they could even open up new opportunities such as purchasing materials for weaving baskets.

Whether microfinance would become only a small cushion mitigating the hardship of the stateless or a means for them to thrive despite the negligence of their own governments, cannot be predicted and it might differ between communities. In either case, through our research microfinance, as a sustainable and cheap instrument, might find yet new fields to work on and new communities to help.

Ondrej Kolinsky, Statelessness Programme Research Intern

Friday, 26 July 2013

GUEST POST: Long way back to citizenship

(Second blog on the history of 'Dutch statelessness' after the Spanish civil war)

In my first blog I described the recruitment of Dutch volunteers for the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), how the Dutch state reacted to this recruitment and how it actively sought the names of those volunteers to revoke their citizenship. At the end of my last blog, I described how a group of some 120 volunteers returned to the Netherlands by train and were declared stateless from now on.

Meanwhile I looked into the question of why this group came back in such an official manner. In a biography about the first Dutch volunteer in this war, Fanny Schoonheyt, also called the ‘queen of the machine gun’, the author offers an answer. It was due to an agreement in the Non-Intervention Committee, a committee which was set up by France and England and also joined by Germany, Italy and the USSR. The Committee had the goal of preventing this war from spreading to become an international conflict. In this committee, it was decided that the repatriation of the volunteers would be the task for the states where they came from. The Netherlands agreed to this. Furthermore it was decided that the volunteers would not be punished for their participation in the war. From the Dutch point of view, the loss of citizenship was to be considered a measure, not a punishment.

This point of view was debatable. In the Nederlandsch Juristenblad (Dutch Advocacy Review) of June 1937, lawyer I. Kisch anticipates the homecoming of the volunteers and writes an essay on the question of whether they should lose their citizenship or not. This essay is not only an interesting interpretation of the (French) history of this law and how it should be implemented, but also a confession of somebody who has seen, as he writes, ‘the misery of statelessness’: avoid as much as reasonable any case of statelessness, is his advice.

Prisoners of war

The misery of statelessness was very real for those volunteers who became prisoners of war. At least 25 Dutch volunteers were held in camps in Spain, and their situation became more complicated as Germany occupied the Netherlands and pressured Spain not to release any men between 18 and 40 years old: they might join the allied forces. Also, being repatriated to a country occupied by Nazi Germany was not a good option for those Dutch anti-fascists, and they were dependent on the good will and assistance from the Dutch authorities to find a country willing to accept them. Unfortunately, the Dutch authorities did not always make a big effort to help them, and for some time did not even feel responsible at all, as those prisoners were no longer considered to be Dutch citizens. This point of view was eventually revised.

One option was to absorb them into the Dutch brigades in England, whereto the Dutch government had fled in 1940. But the Dutch minister of defense refused to accept communists, although, as he admitted, they were probably experienced fighters. Finally, in august 1942, some eleven Dutch POWs were released to Curacao. Upon arrival there, it was disclosed that two of them were actually Germans pretending to be Dutch citizens in order to avoid deportation to Germany.

The last prisoners were released only in 1943, this time directly to England. They wanted to join the armed forces there, but were only offered the status of volunteers in the Dutch army, as they were considered stateless and thus not regular soldiers. Confusingly enough, those prisoners were given Dutch passports before their shipment to England due to differing opinions on whether they had lost their nationality or not between Dutch ministries. The business of enrolling in the army was settled in 1944, when it was concluded that somebody who had lost his citizenship might still be called up for army service. Other former volunteers in Spain, who had lost their citizenship and lived in the Netherlands, had received their draft card in 1939, just like everybody else. It seems that the consequences of losing one’s nationality with regard to the army draft were not clear.

German occupation (1940-1945)

So, some volunteers back in the Netherlands received a draft card, and many joined the resistance after the capitulation of the Netherlands. How did their statelessness affect their lives?

Before and after the occupation, there were certain consequences that affected the life of a stateless person. One was not allowed to vote or to be a candidate in any elections. Now considerd an alien, one was even not allowed to be politically active at all. Also, one was considered an alien and had to register as such and apply for a residence permit, which had to be renewed on a regular basis. To travel to other countries, one needed a special passport that was more expensive and had a shorter validity than a regular one. Working as a civil servant, or any job that required a certain nationality, was not possible. Work was only possible with a work permit, which was necessary for every new job again, and this permit had a price - also for the employer. One former volunteer who worked as a painter described how the alien police would inform the employer about his past in Spain, and that if he had work, he would always be the first who was kicked out. At that time, it had a stigmatizing effect, as one’s political affiliation was revealed.

How the status of being stateless affected the life of the former volunteers during the German occupation is not clear. It is known that the Germans were interested in the Dutch files about those volunteers, and also that after the February strike in 1941, a strike in solidarity with the Jewish population of Amsterdam, those files were studied once more by the Germans. Maybe a study of the different biographies of those volunteers would give a better idea, but I suppose that the statelessness, and thus the fact that someone had fought in Spain, already made those people some kind of outlaw and the decision to go underground might have been almost a necessity for many of them.

Renaturalization after occupation

The fact that the volunteers were in an especially dangerous position with regard to the German occupier, was mentioned as an explanation regarding the re-naturalization of twenty former volunteers in the end of 1945. However, the renaturalization of the former volunteers in Spain would become a long story. In the beginning, after the liberation of the Netherlands, it did not seem so. As mentioned, many volunteers were part of the resistance, and there was more recognition for the fact that they had already fought against fascism in Spain. The Dutch Prime Minister Schemerhorn was in favour of granting permission retroactively, thus reversing the act of revoking citizenship. Unfortunately, the (Catholic) minister of Justice, Kolfschoten, was against this, and he was granted the time to come with another solution. Furthermore, the former volunteers were not the only group asking for Dutch citizenship: in 1946/1947, there were some 8000 applicants for Dutch citizenship. A big group of those applicants were mostly German, but also Polish or Russian wives of Dutch forced labourers returning from Germany. Between 1945 an 1947, nationality was not granted automatically to these foreign wives and some 1000 couples waited in a camp in Bocholt, Germany, close to the Dutch border, until the ‘Committee for marriages with women of enemy or other foreign nationalities’ decided about their case.

Finally, Kolfschoten orderd  to renaturalize as it was done before the occupation . So in 1946, twenty former volunteers were presented in a bill to parliament. Members of parliament had to agree with their renaturalization all in one. If one person was refused, the other nineteen would have to wait to be presented again in another group. As the explanatory memorandum, appended to the bill, was insufficiently informative, members of parliament made a specific request to the minister concerning the principle to be applied: the positive system, implying that the naturalization must be in the interest of the Dutch State, or the negative system, in which the interest of the applicant would be of primary consideration. The minister answered that the positive system would be applied, as it was before the German occupation.

Until 1948, some 62 former volunteers were given their citizenship back. The slow procedure was to the disadvantage of the applicants, as the tension between the East and the West was growing, and communists in the Netherlands were considered more and more to be an internal enemy. One incident especially stirred up anti-communists feelings: in February 1949, the French communist leader Maurice Thorez hinted at helping the Soviets against the imperialist West in the event of war. The Dutch leader of the communist party (CPN), Paul de Groot, agreed with Thorez, although he emphasized the importance of avoiding war altogether.

The strongest reaction to this statement came from the chairman of the catholic political party KVP, Romme. He asked (among a list of other things) to revoke the citizenship of all communists, as they potentially intended to take military service for another country (the USSR). Indeed, being a lawyer himself, he probably knew that this proposal stood no ground legally speaking. It exhibits, however, that the communists were more and more considered to be ‘fifth column’, traitors and bad patriots. This must be understood against the backdrop of the fear of a Russian invasion.

From now on it became official policy to exclude communists from re-naturalization. Not against whom one had fought was now of interest, but against whom one was willing to fight in case of war. According to this new standard, former SS-soldiers who had fought in the East stood a better chance.

In 1951, the next step by the government was the introduction of a bill that would re-naturalize all stateless people in the Netherlands at once – except for those too much aligned with communism. This was a big group: some estimated 15.000 men and their spouses and offspring had lost their citizenship due to collaboration with the Germans, mostly by joining the Waffen-SS. And there were still a dozen former volunteers who had fought in Spain.

Almost the whole parliament was against this proposal: against the mixing up of the two groups, and against the re-naturalization of the former collaborators with one stroke of the pen. The bill was amended and made law. Now it was only applicable to those who had served in an enemy state, thus excluding the former volunteers in Spain. The mixing up of the two groups was avoided, but to the disadvantage of the Spanish volunteers.

Between 1950 and 1955, only 22 volunteers were renaturalized. In an official document of 1964 the reasons for the refusal of renaturalization of 45 former volunteers are listed: 16% were accused of having collaborated with the Germans, 17% of a criminal past, one person of living together out of wedlock, and 65% had an ‘extreme left orientation’ (being present at communist meetings was enough evidence). The first reason, collaboration, is rather curious, as at the same time thousands of former Waffen-SS soldiers were renaturalized.

Finally, thanks to a particular individual case, the exclusion of people with unwanted political ideas was dropped. Former volunteer Siep Adema had applied for renaturalization twice and was refused both times because of his communist background. He applied again in 1963, this time with added motivation: West-Germany had finally come up with financial compensation for those who had been prisoners in concentration camps. Adema was imprisoned for four full years in different camps and would get the highest amount possible – but he had to be a Dutch citizen. It was a bilateral agreement, probably referring to ‚Dutch citizens’. It was considered too much of an injustice if he could not touch the money, and the minister granted citizenship retroactively, as this was the only way of being able to apply. Three more volunteers benefited from this procedure for the same reason.

From this point on, political convictions were left out of consideration regarding applicants. By the end of the 1960s, all applications were dealt with. Whether there were still stateless volunteers who never filed an application is unknown to me, but it seems quite possible, as some volunteers refused to apply for renaturalization.


Julia Mattern wrote her master thesis about the loss of citizenship of Dutch volunteers working for the Nazi construction organisation “Organisation Todt” during German occupation (1940-1945). This organisation built e.g. the Atlantic Wall.



Hans Dankaart e.a., De oorlog begon in Spanje, 1985, Van Gennep, Amsterdam

M.D. Bogaarts and C.M.J. Ruijters, De periode van het kabinet Beel, 1989, SDU-uitgeverij, ’s-Gravenhage

Yvonne Scholten, Fanny Schoonheyt, 2011, J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam

Julia Mattern, ‚...Verzoek ik U beleefd mij weer als Nederlander op te nehmen...’, 2006, RUN, Nijmegen

I. Kisch, Vreemde Krijgsdienst in: Nederlandsch Juristenblad 1937, p. 719ff

Benjamin Kaplan et al.,Boundaries and their meanings in the history of the Netherlands, 2009, Brill, Leiden/Boston, p. 217

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

NHRIs and Statelessness: A survey sent and a first response!

A frequently cited statistic is the UNHCR estimate that there are around 12 million stateless people worldwide. Although the right to a nationality is guaranteed under Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the existence of such a large stateless population worldwide exhibits a clear failure by governments to ensure full implementation of this right. Absence of a nationality can result in people suffering further human rights violations. Thus it is crucial to ensure the right to a nationality is implemented as a first step in achieving compliance with international human rights.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are charged with the mandate to “protect and promote human rights”. Like many innovations in the field of human rights, the concept first arose following the Second World War. Currently there are over 100 NHRIs operating worldwide, with the number of institutions continuing to increase.

 A few weeks ago a survey was sent to NHRIs the world over. This survey forms part of a study on the extent of NHRI engagement in the issue of statelessness; and to establish the context in which this engagement occurs. Through communication with the Netherlands NHRI, the Netherlands Human Rights Institute, it has become clear that there is interest in developing a means of inter NHRI co-operation and co-ordination on the issue of statelessness. Furthermore there is interest in raising awareness of the issue of statelessness amongst NHRIs.

In light of such revelations it is intended that this study will compile and analyse survey responses in the hope of being able to assist NHRIs on the issue of statelessness. The survey distributed to NHRIs asks questions on topics such as the experience of the NHRI with the issue of statelessness, action taken by the NHRI to prevent statelessness, protecting the rights of stateless people, and co-operation and co-ordination in addressing the issue of statelessness.

It is encouraging that a survey response has been already received from the office of the Ombudsman of Croatia. We are grateful for the interest shown so far and are looking forward to hearing from other NHRIs.

Over the next two months this blog will be used to document progress made on the study, and to provide information on what has been discovered along the way.

Monica Neal, 2013 Summer Intern with the Statelessness Programme

Saturday, 13 July 2013

UNHCR’s verdict on statelessness activities over last two years: “unprecedented”

Every other year, UNHCR produces a report summarising the progress made in addressing statelessness. It discusses important international trends and developments, as well as UNHCR’s own activities and achievements. In other words, it’s a very nice little snapshot of what has been happening and this time around there is more to report than ever before. UNHCR’s overall verdict on the current interest and momentum in addressing statelessness…? “Unprecedented”. Here are some of the most interesting highlights from the report:

UNHCR’s commitment to statelessness

Often criticised in the past for not engaging enough on its statelessness mandate, things have changed dramatically within UNHCR over the last few years and there are now some key institutional arrangements that will help the agency to work more effectively on statelessness. According to the report:

“UNHCR’s four pillar budget structure (which is broken down by particular population groups including pillar II for stateless persons), global strategic priorities and results-based framework for planning and reporting have permitted field offices to establish specific objectives and set budgets for activities relating to statelessness which are visible and distinct from those for refugees and other persons of concern. This has ensured that responses to the statelessness problem are given due attention in relevant operations. Progress made in this regard may be measured by the number of UNHCR operations which set objectives relating to statelessness: from 28 operations in 2009, the number rose to 51 in 2010 and 60 in 2011, remaining at this level in 2012. A similar rise occurred in budgets and expenditure. […] UNHCR has strengthened its global response to statelessness, both in terms of reach and also the quality of its interventions, through increased staffing capacity. The High Commissioner’s protection capacity initiative of 2011-2012 led to the creation of five dedicated regional statelessness posts covering Asia and the Pacific, Europe, West Africa, the Americas and the Middle East and North Africa. These posts were filled in 2012 and 2013, and they have significantly bolstered the capacity of field offices in these regions. […] Significant effort was made to bolster the capacity of staff through training and the provision of additional operational guidance. […] Statelessness workshops were organized in four regions for over 110 field staff, while workshops at headquarters reached more than 100 staff.”

Governments’ commitment to statelessness

While the actual reduction of statelessness or improvement of the lives of stateless people can be the only real measure of governments’ commitment to statelessness, it is also interesting to look at whether and how statelessness features on governments’ agendas. There are encouraging signs that statelessness is now being taken more seriously and that government commitment – on the surface at least – is increasing:

“The anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 2011 proved to be a breakthrough in UNHCR’s efforts to achieve progress on statelessness around the world. At the Ministerial Intergovernmental Event, 61 States made a total of 105 specific and measurable pledges relating to statelessness. These pledges included: 32 on accession to the 1961 Convention; 22 on accession to the 1954 Convention; 12 to reform nationality laws; 12 to improve civil registration to prevent and reduce statelessness; 12 to conduct studies or awareness-raising campaigns; 11 to establish statelessness determination procedures; and 4 to address the problem through foreign policy initiatives. […] Currently, 22 per cent of the pledges made have been implemented. Significantly, there were 26 accessions to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions during the two years covered by this report.”

Strengthening other partnerships to address statelessness

Building a comprehensive and successful response to statelessness is a task that cannot be left to governments and UNHCR alone, but in which many other partners can and must contribute. As with the progress statelessness has made in climbing the agendas of governments and within UNHCR itself, so too is it gathering further support from a broad range of stakeholders in every region:

“The Office worked to expand its partnerships and benefited from the increased interest in statelessness generated by the anniversary of the 1961 Convention in 2011. It supported a major symposium of the African Union in Nairobi, Kenya, which explored a range of statelessness issues and adopted a number of recommendations. This was followed by the adoption of a resolution on statelessness and the right to nationality by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. UNHCR also undertook two workshops with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Governmental Human Rights Commission on issues relating to the nationality of women and children and birth registration. In the Americas, UNHCR supported a workshop on statelessness for staff and permanent missions of the Organization of American States, as requested by its General Assembly. The Office briefed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and provided background information on statelessness to the Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe. It also worked more intensively with the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, including on the organization of the Zagreb Conference on the Provision of Civil Status Documentation and Registration in South Eastern Europe, which took place in October 2011. To promote action on statelessness by parliamentarians, UNHCR provided a number of briefings to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. […] In 2012, UNHCR organized a session to promote information exchange, joint strategizing and coalition-building among NGOs. Twenty-six organizations from 13 countries attended, and a follow-up event will be held in 2013.” [= recent NGOconsultations and statelessness retreat which we reported about last month onthis blog]

Law reform to prevent and reduce statelessness

A pivotal component of the response to statelessness is to put in place legal frameworks that safeguard the right to a nationality. In other words, by reforming nationality laws to e.g. remove discrimination or incorporate special provisions that will help to prevent statelessness among children, the suffering that comes with statelessness can simply be avoided. Nationality laws around the world undergo regular amendments and the trick is to use these as opportunities to improve the safety-nets against statelessness and certainly to ensure that the legal framework does not deteriorate:

“During the reporting period, a total of 14 States amended their nationality legislation to strengthen safeguards against statelessness. UNHCR observed several broad trends in nationality laws during this period, including removal of legal provisions leading to loss of nationality for residence  abroad, removal of requirements to renounce nationality before applying for naturalization, and inclusion of safeguards to prevent statelessness owing to voluntary renunciation of citizenship. Consultations with governments in the lead-up to the Ministerial Intergovernmental Event provided an opportunity to discuss problematic elements of nationality laws and possible amendments to address them. Twelve governments made pledges on law reform to prevent and reduce statelessness.”

Resolving cases of statelessness

Millions of people are affected by statelessness around the world and some situations of statelessness have become so protracted that they have engulfed several successive generations, which has a massive social, political, psychological and economic impact on these communities. In 2012, UNHCR High Commissioner Guterres called on all states “to make a firm commitment to ending statelessness within the next decade”. For this to happen, finding ways to resolve statelessness is critical. Progress in this area is steady, but it needs to pick up speed if this goal is to be attainable:

“There was slow but steady progress in reducing statelessness in a number of countries, though no breakthrough that led to a major reduction in the global population. The data available to UNHCR showed that more than 115,000 people acquired a nationality or had it confirmed in 2011 and approximately 94,600 in 2012. This was similar to the progress achieved during the previous reporting period. […]The Office continued to advocate for solutions to a number of protracted statelessness situations. The anniversary of the 1961 Convention again allowed for significant consultations with governments on solutions. One encouraging development was the willingness of a small number of States to discuss their own successful efforts to resolve statelessness situations, thereby encouraging others to follow their example. There was also an increased understanding among States that prolonged statelessness can lead to displacement and unrest. This was underlined by the continuing outflows of Rohingya refugees without nationality from Myanmar and the spike in departures following communal violence there in 2012.”

The Statelessness Programme and UNHCR

Tilburg University’s Statelessness Programme – the hosts of this blog – was established in 2011, so at the beginning of the period which UNHCR has now reported on. It is encouraging to see that the cooperation between the Statelessness Programme and UNHCR throughout these two years is also noted and some of the activities get an explicit mention:

“With the goal of reaching a higher number of staff and partners, and with a related objective of building institutional capacity, the Office supported short courses organized by external actors, including Oxford University, Tilburg University, the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, Mahidol University and the European Network on Statelessness. […] It worked with the universities of Tilburg, Maastricht and New South Wales as well as the Open Society Foundations to develop a global analytical database of nationality laws. [...] In collaboration with Tilburg University, the Office will hold the First Global Forum on Statelessness [in 2014] at which up to 300 representatives of academic and international institutions, governments NGOs and statelessness populations from around the world will present their research, responses and experiences related to statelessness.”

What is next?

This edition of UNHCR’s note on statelessness ends on an encouraging note. Rightly so, given in particular the institutional progress and the signs of increased – “unprecedented” – commitment and engagement by UNHCR and a range of other actors. At the same time, the report also correctly points out that turning this commitment and engagement into real change on the ground remains a challenge and there is much more to be done:

“UNHCR’s activities under its statelessness mandate were enhanced during the two years covered by this report. This was in part due to the organization-wide focus on statelessness during the anniversary of the 1961 Convention in 2011, but it also reflects a longer-term trend. There was an unprecedented impact in terms of action by States, including a significant number of accessions and the adoption of new determination procedures. The number of pledges made by governments at the 2011 Ministerial Intergovernmental Event suggests further progress will be made in the coming years. While impressive, these developments pale in comparison to the magnitude of the problem. There was only limited progress toward resolution of protracted situations. If the international community is to be successful in meeting the challenges posed by statelessness globally, the momentum of the past two years must be maintained and channeled towards acquisition of nationality by stateless persons.”