“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

2014 Global Forum: A “meeting place” for people concerned about statelessness

6 August 2013 | Laura van Waas, Senior Researcher and Manager, Statelessness Programme

In September 2014, Tilburg University and UNHCR will co-host the First Global Forum on Statelessness. Originally, when the idea of organising an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons was first conceived by the Statelessness Programme at Tilburg Law School, the vision was of a traditional academic conference. Around the world, individual scholars and research institutes have shown a growing interest in studying and discussing statelessness over the past decade. The channels for sharing and debating the findings of such research remain limited, however, as there have been no conferences, nor are there any journals, specifically dedicated to statelessness. As a result, information remains dispersed, as papers are published or presented in a wide variety of venues – i.e. in journals or at conferences focusing on related issues including migration, human rights, international relations, etc. While there have been numerous meetings in the last few years which focused on statelessness, these have tended to concentrate on convening only government representatives (e.g. 2011 UNHCR Ministerial meeting) or NGOs (e.g. annual UNHCR-NGO consultations, with the recent addition of a statelessness retreat). The initial ambition of the Statelessness Programme was to organise the equivalent global meeting for members of the university community in order to share research experiences and findings on statelessness, as well as start to plot out a research agenda for the future. Following discussions with UNHCR and the decision to form a partnership for this event, we set our joint sights a little higher…

 After lengthy consideration of the alternatives, the word ‘Forum’ was carefully chosen to describe the international conference that is now planned for September 2014 in the Hague. The idea is simple: to offer a meeting place where people who are concerned about statelessness can come together and share their ideas and experiences. This includes academics, governments, NGOs, legal practitioners, UN staff, journalists, community and faith-based groups and, those directly affected - stateless and formerly stateless people themselves. There will still be some of the familiar trappings of an academic conference, such as a number of keynote speeches on different aspects of statelessness research and policy by prominent international experts, the opportunity for academics to present and ask for feedback on a research paper they are preparing and the publication, after the event, of a book which offers a selection of some of the most current and cutting edge research in this field. But there will equally be opportunity for government representatives to present and discuss their policy experiences and for others engaged in addressing statelessness to share observations and ideas from their own work. The Forum will be flexible in terms of the way in which particular sessions are designed, depending on the envisaged topic, participants and desired outcome. This could mean panel debates, multimedia sessions, interactive workshops or other formats and we are keen to explore such ideas with any individual or organization that is interested in helping to shape part of the event with us. Moreover, in the spirit of the ancient Roman forum, or marketplace, the First Global Forum on Statelessness will also provide ample informal space for meeting, gathering and exchanging views, including through the inclusion of networking events as part of the programme. 

"The daily suffering of millions of stateless people is an affront to humanity. The persistence of statelessness around the world is a challenge that requires a concerted international response. Building on the momentum of renewed international commitment to address statelessness, the First Global Forum on Statelessness presents an invaluable opportunity to bring together stateless people, policy makers, academics, NGOs and international organizations to come up with solutions to end statelessness.” - UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres

 While the Forum aims to be flexible to accommodate the diverse backgrounds and styles of its participants, certain important parameters have nevertheless been set. To begin with, for this First Global Forum on Statelessness, the overarching topic of “New Directions in Statelessness Research and Policy” has been selected. We recognise and value the wealth of knowledge and experience that has amassed around the issue of statelessness, especially over the past few years. Now is the time to explore this collectively, in order to discover and share innovations that will help to ensure a more effective response to statelessness in the future, as well as to discuss the challenges that we still face and how to move forward. New research findings can help to feed into more effective policy, while policy innovations and obstacles may spark new research projects. Under this broad umbrella, the Forum will delve in particular into three themes which have also been set: Stateless Children, Statelessness and Security and Responses to Statelessness (a description of each theme can be found on the Forum website). Again, we are happy to discuss with anyone who is considering participating in the forum how their personal or organisational experiences with statelessness can be linked to one or more of these themes and help them to identify how their work or knowledge can best feed into the Forum. Our hope is that the exchange of information and the establishment of new contacts at the Forum will give a fresh boost to activities and collaboration in the field of statelessness.

 The call for presenters for the First Global Forum on Statelessness is now open. Proposals can be submitted using a simple application form which can be downloaded from the Forum website at www.tilburguniversity.edu/statelessness2014. The deadline for submissions is 1 December 2013. To first discuss ideas for a presentation, to propose a panel or workshop, or to be added to the mailing list for updates on the Global Forum, write to statelessness2014@tilburguniversity.edu.  

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