This is the second edition of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion’s flagship report on The World’s Stateless – the second time we have zoomed out from our day-to-day involvement with different aspects of the issue of statelessness in different places, to take stock of the overall state of the phenomenon globally. The first edition was published at the end of 2014, shortly after the launch by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of the #Ibelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024. In it, we focused largely on the question of statistical reporting on statelessness, “with a hope to contribute to a better sense of the task ahead by providing an insight into the scope of statelessness around the world”. At the time, the report helped to reflect on and serve as a complement to the growing international discourse on what the ‘problem’ of statelessness actually looks like and why it is of importance to tackle it.
Since 2014, the global discourse on statelessness has undergone a striking transformation. The #Ibelong campaign launch marked the culmination of a process of (re)discovery of the issue, in which interested stakeholders were grappling to get to grips with what statelessness entails and it was still vying for a place on the international agenda. In this new era, the emphasis of the statelessness discourse has shifted from questions of what or why, to when and how. As embodied by the #Ibelong campaign itself, the necessity and even the urgency of countering statelessness is now widely recognised and discussion increasingly centres on how to effectuate international obligations and leverage relevant international frameworks to achieve real and meaningful change. The time for talk has, as it were, made way for the time for action.
Today, as we again take stock of the challenges and opportunities that confront the global community concerned with statelessness, it is important to acknowledge this evolution in the discourse and the ambition with respect to engagement. There are new benchmarks and milestones against which to gauge progress – quite literally, in the case of the #Ibelong campaign, which outlines a first set of milestones for 2017, for each of the ten ‘actions’ of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness. With this in mind, the focus of this edition of The World’s Stateless report has also evolved from a largely descriptive critique of the state of statelessness to an exploration of entry points, tools, frameworks, and strategies for improving the lives of stateless persons and reducing the incidence of statelessness.
In Part Two of this report, we will turn our attention to the situation of stateless children and what can be learned from efforts around the world to more effectively promote the right of every child to a nationality. Before that, this first part of the report offers a more general overview of developments in the field of statelessness. In this opening chapter, Melanie Khanna, Chief of the Statelessness Section of UNHCR, reflects on the state of statelessness globally and highlights areas of progress in relation to the #Ibelong campaign. A short synopsis of developments in respect of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, aimed at eliminating gender discrimination in nationality law, is then provided by the Campaign’s manager, Catherine Harrington. A broader stock-taking and analysis of developments since 2014, compiled by the Institute in consultation with civil society partners around the world, is presented in the subsequent chapters of Part One. As in the previous report, we have grouped this material according to the five regions into which UNHCR organises its work and statistical reporting: Africa (Chapter 2), the Americas (Chapter 3), Asia and the Pacific (Chapter 4), Europe (Chapter 5) and the Middle East and North Africa (Chapter 6).