Between the 4-8th November in Bangkok, Thailand, the Statelessness Programme of Tilburg Law School carried out the first Regional Statelessness Course. The course followed two successful summer schools held in Tilburg during the summers of 2012 and 2013, and was co-hosted by Open Society Foundations, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. During a very intensive but stimulating and enjoyable week, over 35 participants from around South East Asia followed lectures by international and regional experts. The participants were professionals working for a variety of organizations including the UNHCR, NGOs, regional coalitions, governments, and universities.
The start of the week introduced the participants to the basic theory and legal framework of statelessness. These sessions were given by experts including Laura van Waas and Zahra Albarazi of the Statelessness Programme, Nick Oakeshott and Bongkot Napaumporm from UNHCR’s Regional statelessness team and Amal Dechikera from the Equal Rights Trust, while Marc Krupanski and Laura Bingham from Open Society Justice Initiative encouraged discussion on advocacy and legal aid. The theoretical and thematic sessions were alternated with sessions in which participants worked in groups to apply what they had learned. Throughout the week case studies and panels were set up to discuss the specific issues of the region. This included tailored discussion on the stateless Rohingya issue affecting the whole region, birth registration practices of Thailand and the newly adopted Statelessness Determination Procedure in the Philippines. By the final afternoon, the course participants were able to formulate and share many new and valuable ideas for further engagement on the issue of statelessness in their work. This course set a positive precedent for future regional courses of the Statelessness Programme.
“The course was fantastic and I really enjoyed it! The exercises and the group work provided me opportunity to personally interact with participants in different fields – government, non- government and international organizations, to discuss and think of possible solutions to address statelessness in South East Asia” – Rosalie Cumla, Philippines Department of Justice, Regional course participant