The Government of Cote d’Ivoire and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would jointly host the first Ministerial Conference on Statelessness in West Africa from February 23 to 25, in Cote d’Ivoire.
Statelessness is a situation whereby an individual residing in a state is denied all the privileges and right given to its citizens because he or she has no document to prove that he or she is a citizen.
This was contained in a message copied to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday and signed by Ms Patience Folley, the Assistant Public Information Officer, UNHCR, Ghana Office.
These individuals are typically in this situation because they have difficulties proving they possess links to a State due, for instance, to a lack of birth registration and personal documentation that traces their origins and could confirm their identity.
Populations without birth certificates, abandoned children, undocumented stranded migrants, and individuals living in areas of state succession and border disputes constitute some of the major groups of people at risk of statelessness in West Africa.
The Ministerial Conference, scheduled for February 25, will be preceded by two days of high-level technical debates among experts in the field of nationality and statelessness, which would come up with concrete recommendations on how to prevent, reduce and resolve statelessness in West Africa.
According to the statement, the conference would be inaugurated by the President of Cote d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, and would be attended by Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and the Interior from around the region whose portfolios all touch in some way or other on the issue of statelessness.
Mr. António Guterres, the UNHCR’s High Commissioner, would also be present, in addition to high-level representatives from key regional organizations such as the ECOWAS Commission, the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Mano River Union.
Civil society organizations, national human rights institutions, United Nations agencies, international experts, and diplomatic representatives from across West Africa had also been invited to discuss this important topic
Of the 10 million people, who are stateless or at risk of statelessness in the world, at least 750,000 live in West Africa.
This figure is just an estimate, there are many groups of people who could be stateless or at risk of statelessness that have not yet been evaluated.
In November 2014, the UNHCR launched a Global Campaign to End Statelessness within 10 years, which includes an Action Plan to resolve existing cases of statelessness and prevent new ones from arising.
The Ministerial Conference in Abidjan is key to addressing statelessness in the West African region.
By hosting this event – a first of its kind on the African continent – UNHCR aims to promote a comprehensive regional strategy to identify stateless people, design protection measures, and develop concrete solutions to prevent and reduce statelessness throughout the region.
At the closing of the conference, all ECOWAS member States are expected to sign a declaration on the right to nationality and publicly express their commitment to ending statelessness in the near future.