“Everyone has the right to a nationality”

A Chilean rendez-vous in the race against statelessness

10 June 2016 | Ivonne Garza, Fellow at the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness
Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness (Red ANA) conference in Chile

Two years ago, the UNHCR kicked off the race to end statelessness with the #IBelong campaign. In response to the UNHCR’s calling, the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness (Red ANA) was also created in 2014 to cross the “statelessness free” finish line in the region.

Since then, the UNHCR, the Red ANA and our members in the Americas have done much to push the region closer to this objective. This led to a three-day workshop held last week in Chile during which all of us met to share what we‘ve learned in the region and plan for what’s next.

Hosted by the Diego Portales University’s Center for Human Rights, the workshop began with a review of the UNHCR’s mandate on statelessness and an overview of the Red ANA’s work in the last year. Basic concepts and Inter-American case law addressing the right to identity and nationality, as well as statelessness and its causes were also discussed. Additionally, the situation of gender-based discrimination in access to nationality rights in The Bahamas was presented, followed by a discussion on the four proposed amendments to the Constitution that were to be voted on June 7th, 2016 by referendum. The first day of activities closed with a focus on the safeguards provided by the 1961 Convention that serve as useful standards for the creation of better legal frameworks in the Americas.

During our second day, we went through a process of knowledge-sharing and learned how different countries in The Americas and other regions across the globe are approaching the race. First up, the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) reviewed statelessness standards and procedures. Moreover, the ENS also talked about deprivation and arbitrary denial of citizenship in Europe and how their network has been working towards advancing nationality rights. The UNHCR discussed statelessness determination mechanisms in the Americas and their “Model Law” to ensure the protection of stateless persons. Red ANA members were able to present specific details of nationality gaps in Costa Rica, Panama, Chile and the Dominican Republic.

Finally, the third day of activities focused on the goals to be pursued in the next year. The Global Plan of Action and the Brazil Plan of Action together with its 2016 – 2017 strategies were brought to the table by UNHCR. The ENS also talked about its projects in Europe to advance on standards and face the specific challenges that their region presents.

By the end of the workshop, Red ANA members were able to discuss priorities for the next two years and determine specific actions to carry out at the domestic level in order to provide solutions for prioritized needs in the region. Two main commitments were made:

  1. To continue the documentation of statelessness cases; and
  2. To actively pursue and develop research in the region to clarify the dimensions of statelessness in the Americas.

The starting gun in the race to end statelessness, which has gathered people from around the globe to move towards a common goal, was only fired by the UNHCR two years ago. Since then, we’ve achieved a great deal in the first leg of the race: the preparation phase. Now, we’re getting ready to start second leg of the race: where actions must be taken and experiences shared. Our meeting in Chile was an opportunity to exchange our learned lessons in these early trials. As we continue to gain valuable knowledge and design shared strategies, our actions will be better equipped to face the hurdles and stumbling blocks we may encounter in the next year, and move us closer to the home stretch. In the end, it is all about preparing for our big day, the one that will soon arrive in 2024, when we will be able to cross the finish line victoriously and run a lap in a world where statelessness does not exist.

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