ENS Interview with Elisabeth Tan, Director, UNHCR Division of International Protection


ENS was pleased to catch up with Elizabeth Tan, Director of UNHCR's Division of International Protection, to ask about the Global Alliance to End Statelessness, which will be launched next year, and for which ENS is happy to be a member of the Taskforce set up to advise on its foundational elements.

ENS Interview with Elisabeth Tan, Director, UNHCR Division of International Protection
Photo: © UNHCR/Mark Henley

The Global Alliance to End Statelessness will be formally launched next year following the end of UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign – can you tell us what the Global Alliance is, and why it is important?

Despite significant progress and results achieved in the last decade the challenges of statelessness will regretfully continue to remain beyond the lifetime of the #IBelong Campaign. The 2021 external evaluation of UNHCR-led Initiatives to End Statelessness found that UNHCR and partners successfully raised awareness on statelessness and influenced political will and capacity to prevent and resolve statelessness. However, it also acknowledged that UNHCR and its partners cannot end statelessness alone. Therefore, a key recommendation was to establish a lasting multi-stakeholder coalition to advance the statelessness agenda post the #IBelong campaign's conclusion in 2024.

We are excited to shift into this new strategic phase of our collective efforts to end statelessness. It involves adopting a 'whole of society' approach through engaging and mobilising a diverse range of stakeholders, across all societal sectors and levels (global, regional, national) including stateless people themselves.

The vision of the Global Alliance to End Statelessness is a world free from statelessness where everyone enjoys the right to a nationality without discrimination. This will happen through convening all key stakeholders, including stateless-led organisations, UN Agencies, civil society organisations and networks, Member States and regional intergovernmental organisations to support collective and collaborative action. The Global Alliance will provide a platform for learning, exchange, and collaboration; and critically, will catalyse and accelerate change by identifying and responding to gaps in laws, policies and practice, and building the political commitment needed to eradicate statelessness and to uphold the rights of stateless people.

Addressing statelessness is closely linked to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Global Alliance should contribute to achieving the SDGs, the commitments to leave no one behind, and ensuring legal identity for all. 

Where can our readers find out more about the Global Alliance, who should get involved and why, and how is it possible to join?

For those interested in learning more or getting involved with the Global Alliance, our new website, www.statelessnessalliance.org, will be the primary information hub and membership portal.

The Alliance is open to Member States, Regional Intergovernmental Organisations, UN Agencies, stateless-led and non-governmental organisations, and other relevant entities. Member States and Regional Intergovernmental Organisations can also become members of the Solution Seeker Programme of the Global Alliance.

Joining the Alliance is a demonstration of commitment to the global effort to eradicate statelessness. It offers a unique opportunity to engage in a collaborative platform, where members can contribute to the formulation and implementation of strategies aimed at expediting solutions to statelessness.

Organisations and entities who wish to become a member can complete an online application form on the Global Alliance website. They may also reach out to the Global Alliance Secretariat, hosted by UNHCR, at stalliance@unhcr.org, for additional information and guidance.

Individuals and activists can play a crucial role in supporting the Global Alliance to End Statelessness and its efforts to eradicate statelessness. Engaging in advocacy efforts and volunteering time and resources with organisations working towards this cause is an important way to contribute. In addition, raising awareness is another key area. Lastly, creating inclusive spaces and building community support for stateless people to share their stories, and aspirations, is essential for fostering empathy and understanding.

One key component of the Global Alliance is the Solution Seeker Programme - what is this exactly and how does it link to other pledging platforms such as the Global Refugee Forum?

The Solution Seeker Programme is one of the signature activities under the Global Alliance. It aims to accelerate the implementation of concrete pledges on statelessness by States and Regional Intergovernmental Organisations through increased leadership, capacity and collaboration with relevant stakeholders. The programme goes beyond identifying gaps and challenges and looks at implementing practical solutions. The programme will provide support tools, including a Diagnostic Tool, a Stakeholder Consultation Guide and a Pledge Implementation Plan Template.

In a nutshell, to be a Solutions Seeker means taking practical steps to prevent and reduce statelessness within the country’s borders. This role also demonstrates a willingness to lead by example on a global scale, showcasing effective approaches that other countries can learn from.

The soft launch of the Solution Seeker Programme will take place on 15 December 2023 during the Global Refugee Forum side-event on statelessness. The side event goes under the heading “From pledges to results: Realising a world free from statelessness through collaborative action” and is linked to the GRF multistakeholder pledge “Ending statelessness”. We look forward to hearing States and Regional Intergovernmental Organisations announce their intention to join the Alliance and sign-up for this programme.

Another key component of the Global Alliance is the envisaged Regional Network Labs – what are these and how can regional networks such as ENS get involved? What is the expected role of civil society more broadly?

The Regional Network Labs within the Global Alliance are envisioned as collaborative hubs, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and best practices among regional networks, such as the European Network on Statelessness. Crucially, these Labs are also dedicated to elevating the voices of stateless communities, ensuring they have a seat at the table. This inclusion is essential to truly understand the challenges from their unique perspective and to co-create solutions that are more effective and relevant.

These Network Labs will serve as forums for discussion, innovation, and policy development, and play a crucial role in addressing the multifaceted issue of statelessness. The participation of civil society and stateless-led organisations is imperative and integral to the success of these labs. Their role is to provide grassroots perspectives, challenge existing paradigms, reflect the views and experiences of diverse stateless communities, and contribute to the development of effective strategies.

The Labs will feature webinars and workshops which will aim to foster a collaborative environment where experiences and insights are shared, leading to the development of adaptable and scalable solutions across different regions. Collective action, along with the pivotal role of civil society, stateless-led organisations, and activists, is fundamental in driving forward the agenda to end statelessness.

In our role as members of the Task Force helping to set up the Global Alliance, we’re excited about the potential it has to galvanise efforts to end statelessness. However, some questions remain whether sufficient resourcing is earmarked to support this, as well as the extent to which UNHCR will continue to prioritise this part of its mandate in future programming after the end of the #IBelong campaign – what reassurances can you offer in this regard?

Concerns regarding resources and the prioritisation of statelessness in our future programming are understandable. We are all affected by funding constraints.

However, I wish to reassure partners and stakeholders of our unwavering commitment to ending statelessness. Under the High Commissioner’s renewed Strategic Directions 2022-2026, statelessness has been identified as a focus area, which requires organisational prioritisation, including in terms of financial and human resourcing.

The transition from the #IBelong campaign to the Global Alliance represents an evolution in our approach, with a focus on sustainable and impactful solutions. We are committed to prioritise the work of the Alliance in our own resource allocation. We are also prepared to work to engage with donors with a view to mobilise additional funds to the specific Alliance workstreams. I also want to flag that UNHCR's efforts extend beyond financial investments and includes expertise, technical support and collaboration, as well as advocacy at global, regional and country levels. Finally, the online marketplace will also be a platform for Alliance members to seek donor interest for joint initiatives.

The eradication of statelessness remains a core part of our mandate at UNHCR. We are not merely continuing our efforts, but want to build on past successes and push the boundaries of what we can collectively achieve to relegate statelessness to history.

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