Your Excellency, Commissioner Guterres
Esteemed panelists, State representatives, international agencies, civil society colleagues, ladies, gentlemen, and children
At the Center for Justice and International Law, we are grateful to have been invited by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
We have learned in the last 15 years from our first-hand experience in the Dominican Republic accompanying children and families in the international litigation process, that people who lack a nationality are susceptible to increased marginalization, discrimination and insecurity.
It is heartbreaking that the people we represent, and millions more like them, are told that they simply do not exist.
As stateless people, they are denied their most basic rights: many cannot register the birth of their own children, marry, receive medical care, get a job, open a bank account, travel outside the country, go to school, or feel safe.
Although situations of statelessness are uncommon in the Americas, they affect over two hundred thousand people. The numbers are not as high as in other regions, but we acknowledge that “One stateless person is too many”.
In our continent, many situations merit closer examination because they can affect access to the right to nationality. They include birth registration, gender discriminatory provisions of citizenship laws, discriminatory practices in the determination of nationality, and the status of children born to parents lacking valid identity documents, among others.
Commissioner Guterres, we admire your commitment towards stateless people around the world. Your presence in our hemisphere sends a strong message on the importance of tackling this issue through a comprehensive and well-structured plan.
Your determination gives us hope that we have arrived at a turning point where we will be able to eradicate statelessness around the world.
In the Americas, we are in a unique position to address the challenges that lay in front of us in the next decade. The commitment to respect a “right to nationality for all” was enshrined in the foundational instruments for the protection of human rights in the Americas. Both the 1948 American Declaration (on the Rights and Duties of Man) and the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights create a comprehensive framework for the protection of the right to a nationality.
Additionally, most countries in the region offer a generous and combined application of the principles of ius soli and jus sanguinis for the acquisition of nationality, allowing to acquire nationality through soil or blood, thus diminishing significantly the risk of statelessness.
Our regional multilateral institution, the Organization of American States, and its human rights bodies, have taken steps to address statelessness in the region. The General Assembly of the OAS has called on Member States to ratify (or adhere to) the UN Conventions on statelessness , and to adjust their national policies.
We also have a clear example of the role regional human rights bodies can play. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has analyzed the right to nationality in two advisory opinions and several cases. The Commission has addressed the issue since the 70s.
Moreover, there have been important steps taken in some countries of the region in the last few years. Argentina has ratified the 1961 Convention. Suriname recently modified its law eliminating gender discrimination in access to citizenship, Mexico adopted a national procedure for determining the status of stateless persons. Uruguay is currently considering a bill to achieve this goal in the short term. Other countries may follow soon.
With this framework in mind, a group of civil society organizations, academic initiatives, and individuals have come together to join the Global Action Plan of the UNHCR in order to eradicate and prevent statelessness in the following 10 years.
It is with great pleasure that today I formally announce the launch of the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness. I would like to offer special thanks to the Open Society Foundation for their support, to Dilcia Yean, Violeta Bosico, and the other children and families that we represent, and to the tireless human rights defender Sonia Pierre, for inspiring so much of our actions throughout the years.
Through this platform we will work hand in hand with UNHCR in order to raise awareness of this issue, identify risks, support stateless people, cooperate with states, and exchange information with our sister organizations around the world.
We firmly believe, that nationality is the door that opens up the right to have rights.
We believe that together we can change realities. We embrace the shared vision of a world where everybody has a nationality.
Like you, Commissioner Guterres, we insist that it is time to end the injustice of statelessness. You can count on every member of the Americas Network to help make this possible.