“The Invisible of the Invisible” – this is how the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, has described the world’s more than 6 million stateless children. While there is now growing awareness of the fact that to be stateless as a child can stunt opportunity, erode ambition and destroy the sense of self-worth, a child is still born stateless every 10 minutes. That we, the adults who set the rules for inclusion and exclusion, allow this to occur is – to quote Mezmur again – “shameful”. International law protects the right of every child to acquire a nationality. Childhood statelessness need never happen, it can be avoided.
The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion is proud to devote the second edition of our flagship report, The World's Stateless 2017, to exploring the urgency of and opportunities for addressing childhood statelessness. This issue must be addressed as a matter of priority. Those like Phra of Thailand, who said “How long will I have to wait to have equal rights to other people? I have been fighting for it my whole life” have already endured statelessness for too long. A child who is forced to grow up stateless will not get a second chance at a fair start in life. As documentary photographer Greg Constantine reflects, the world’s stateless children represent “a wealth of amazing contributions to society denied”.
Today, human rights, freedom, tolerance and inclusion are all under enormous strain. Conflict, displacement, violence and xenophobia seem to be shaping our world, delivering new challenges and further entrenching existing ones. Happily however, all around the world, people continue to work tirelessly to advance human rights and bring relief to human suffering. The community of persons and organisations committed to addressing statelessness is actually expanding, as more civil society, academic, UN and government actors take up the issue. Now, more than ever, it is important to recognise, share, celebrate and take courage from the efforts that are being made to promote the human rights of stateless persons and foster their inclusion.
The World’s Stateless report embraces and showcases the collaborative spirit that characterises the field of statelessness today. Over 50 experts and organisations contributed material – essays, interviews, photographs and more. As the multitude of contributions testify, the fight to realise every child’s right to a nationality is one which people have taken up all across the globe – and in a wide array of contexts. The material has been grouped by theme to cover six core topics: The right of every child to a nationality, Migration, displacement and childhood statelessness, Childhood statelessness and the Sustainable Development Agenda, Safeguarding against childhood statelessness, Litigating against childhood statelessness and Mobilising against childhood statelessness.
As with every edition of The World’s Stateless, this publication also offers a more general overview on the state of statelessness globally in 2017. Assessing the situation region-by-region, the report provides a snapshot of: stateless populations; regional standards; noteworthy developments since the 2014 edition of The World’s Stateless (which focused on the theme ‘counting the stateless’); selected country profiles; and an update on civil society engagement on statelessness.
The report's content can be navigated online at www.worldsstateless.org and can also be downloaded in full, free of charge, in PDF format from this website. The publication will be available to order in hard copy from 1 March from Wolf Legal Publishers. We would like to express our deep gratitude to everyone who played a part in making this report possible, including all of the contributors, Ashurst for their assistance with copy-editing and for hosting the launch in London , our partners at Robiz and WLP for producing the web-based and publication versions respectively, and our donors, the Sigrid Rausing Trust and Janivo.