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Regional Commitments to Prevent Statelessness in Action

 7 June 2018. Almaty, Kazakhstan.  On 7 June 2018, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, convened a regional meeting with representatives of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, to discuss efforts in ensuring birth registration to all children in Central Asia in the context of addressing statelessness.  The two-day conference, titled as the Regional Conference on the Right to Legal Identity and Prevention of Statelessness in Central Asia, started on 7 June in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). 

Childhood statelessness, often caused by the lack of birth registration and other legal safeguards, is shared challenge observed across the Central Asia, affecting thousands of children. During the meeting, the representatives of the five Central Asian countries exchange positive developments made in their respective countries, and reflect on further measures that can be undertaken to close legislative and administrative gaps.  

UNHCR, UNICEF and ESCAP welcome reaffirmation of commitments expressed by the five Central Asian countries to ensure that all children born in their respective countries are registered,  irrespective of their parents’ legal status, and the opportunity to support these countries to fulfill objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda and the UNHCR’s Global Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 (#IBelong).  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commits the States to providing legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030 (Goal 16.9).  The Central Asian states will also revisit their commitments made at the 2014 Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific. At this meeting Governments of the region adopted the Ministerial Declaration to “Get Every One in the Picture” in Asia and the Pacific. They declared 2015-2024 the “Asia-Pacific CRVS Decade,” committing to 10 years of intensive efforts to ensure that all people in Asia and the Pacific benefit from universal and responsive CRVS systems that facilitate the realization of their rights and support good governance, health and development.

Representatives of Thailand, Romania, and the Russian Federation are also invited to the conference to share their best practices with regard to possible ways forward for achieving universal birth registration and avoid risk of statelessness among children born to parents without citizenship.

Over 100,000 people are known to be stateless in the five countries in Central Asia. The majority of them are ex-citizens of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) who have not yet acquired or confirmed citizenship of the newly independents States, following the USSR’s dissolution in 1991.  Others became stateless due to gaps in nationality laws, international migration and mixed marriages.

 “Ensuring that every child has a nationality is essential for their future well-being. Children born to migrant parents need legal identity to have full access to all the same rights as nationals in line with international human rights principles. Therefore, UNICEF around the globe is working closely with the governments and sister-agencies to leave no child behind. Within the created Coalition between UNICEF and UNHCR on Every Child’s Right to a Nationality, one of the expected results is to improve birth registration to prevent statelessness in Central Asia,” said Yuri Oksamitniy, Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

 This conference also provides the Central Asian countries an opportunity to collect feedback from the participating countries on their obligations and achievements with regard to the Joint Conclusions developed ahead of the follow-up meeting scheduled for early 2019.

“UNHCR and UNICEF will study the commitments made today over the coming days to determine how they can assist.  We look forward to continuing working with the states to make a difference on the lives of children who are at the risk of stateless”, said Yasuko Oda, Regional Representative/Regional Coordinator of UNHCR for Central Asia.

“There is a clear commitment by countries in this region to “leave no one behind”. Civil registration and the personal documents issued on the basis of the registration enable every person to prove their legal identity, a human right that is fundamental to inclusive development.” said Rikke Munk Hansen, Officer-in-Charge of the Statistics Division of ESCAP.

Today, millions of men, women and children are stateless around the world.  Having no legal identity, being stateless can mean “invisible” without access to documentation, health care, education, right to work and political participation.  If remain unaddressed, statelessness is often passed down to the next generation.  UNHCR believes it’s time to end this injustice and that solution is within reach.  A number of governments have changed their citizenship laws or have acceded to the Statelessness Conventions, facilitating thousands of stateless people to find a solution to their statelessness situations. 

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