Global needs in 2024
Since the #IBelong Campaign’s launch in 2014, significant advances have been made on all aspects of UNHCR’s statelessness mandate. 517,000 stateless people have acquired a nationality or had it confirmed, 15 States have introduced provisions to prevent statelessness, and 21 States have established procedures to identify stateless persons and recognize statelessness status, among other achievements.
However, millions of individuals around the world still lack the basic rights and protections associated with nationality. As of the end of 2022, UNHCR’s annual statistics reported 4.4 million stateless persons and persons with undetermined nationality. This is widely recognized to be much lower than the actual number due to complexities in data collection and the fact that stateless individuals often remain invisible in national statistical exercises. While the number of stateless persons gaining a nationality is encouraging, progress remains slow in many countries with significant and often protracted stateless populations.
Globally, there are notable gaps in the adherence to international standards concerning the right to nationality, the prevention of statelessness and the protection of stateless persons. Fewer than half of UN member States are parties to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions, and not all parties have fully domesticated them. In terms of prevention, many States have yet to undertake reforms to ensure that no child is born stateless, for instance by allowing mothers to confer nationality on the same basis as fathers. While standards on safeguarding the rights of stateless persons have advanced considerably in recent years, many countries still lack any protection framework or fail to provide stateless persons with permanent solutions. Beyond the realm of legislation and policies, discrimination in the application of laws continues to be a significant driver of statelessness, which disproportionately affects minorities.
There is still limited recognition of how statelessness impacts the socioeconomic development of countries and their progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While statelessness is fundamentally a human rights issue, governments should also consider the development potential of creating a more inclusive society.
Global needs for statelessness in 2024
+10% vs 2023 current budget
How UNHCR will make a difference
In 2024, UNHCR will refocus its efforts, aiming to achieve transformative and measurable changes by 2026 in the reduction and prevention of statelessness and the protection of stateless persons. UNHCR’s “Strategic plan 2023-2026: redoubling efforts on statelessness” sets out four time-bound objectives. To work towards the objectives, UNHCR will take various actions at country level, with particular efforts on two actions.
First, UNHCR’s country operations will intensify context-specific proactive policy and public advocacy to encourage the development and implementation of strategies to achieve high-impact objectives, such as legislative reform to prevent childhood statelessness or confirmation of nationality for large groups of stateless people. UNHCR will work with stateless communities to achieve these goals. Its awareness-raising and advocacy campaigns will also aim to address the broader underlying causes of statelessness, including discrimination and exclusion.
Secondly, UNHCR will focus on leveraging the influence of UN Resident Coordinators, UN country teams and development partners to ensure that other UN agencies are supporting advocacy efforts and that their country programmes and budgets include stateless and at-risk populations. UNHCR will work to underline the linkages between statelessness and development and position statelessness as a central Sustainable Development Goal issue, creating further impetus for States to act and mobilize development actors.
UNHCR’s multi-year vision and objectives
UNHCR’s multi-year vision for addressing statelessness: By 2026, there is a significant increase in the number of people who have a nationality or are no longer at risk of statelessness, and as such enjoy their rights. To achieve this vision and bring about positive change, there are four objectives UNHCR will work towards with other actors in 2024 and beyond:
- Increasing numbers of States are demonstrating their commitment to reduce and prevent statelessness;
- Increasing numbers of stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness have access to procedures and documents for nationality;
- Increasing numbers of stateless persons have access to public services and economic opportunities at the same level as nationals;
- Increasing numbers of stateless persons are empowered to claim their rights.
UNHCR will provide technical support to States, especially on the 389 pledges to address statelessness made at the 2019 High-Level Segment on Statelessness and the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, and new pledges made at the 2023 Forum. It will also target gaps and discriminatory aspects in nationality law and will ensure that procedures to implement provisions are effective. UNHCR will also offer legal support and representation to stateless individuals seeking nationality pathways or access to relevant documents.
UNHCR will work to enhance the quality of statistics on statelessness to increase the visibility of stateless populations and provide evidence to governments on the extent and impact of statelessness. To achieve this, UNHCR will advocate for and support States in the implementation of the International Recommendations on Statelessness Statistics, adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2023.
Eradicating statelessness requires a broad global coalition. UNHCR will therefore work with other key stakeholders to launch a Global Alliance to End Statelessness in 2024, bringing together governments, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, civil society and stateless-led organizations.
UNHCR will tailor its approach to tackling statelessness in each country. It will prioritize countries with large numbers of stateless people who have long-established ties to the country (“reduce countries”), advocating with and supporting governments to grant them nationality at an accelerated pace.
In countries where children and adults are at risk of statelessness due to difficulties accessing birth registration or nationality documentation, or due to discrimination or gaps in nationality laws and policies (“prevent countries”), UNHCR will support these governments to change laws and improve documentation processes, in collaboration with UN Resident Coordinators, UN country teams and development actors.
Finally, in countries where stateless migrants and refugees lack protection (“protect countries”), UNHCR will seek to improve their identification and their enjoyment of rights and will advocate with these governments for a pathway to nationality, in particular in countries where the government has expressed political will to address the issue.
The cost of inaction
Insufficient funding is likely to significantly hamper the rate at which major situations of statelessness can be resolved. Addressing these often protracted situations involves resource-intensive and longerterm efforts to achieve legal reform and ensure that stateless populations are mapped and have their nationality confirmed. With limited funds, UNHCR operations will be less able to prioritize programmes that aim at structural changes. The lack of adequate funding is also anticipated to lead to reduced dedicated staffing for statelessness, negatively affecting all related activities.