ECOWAS: Member states adopt declaration on eradication of statelessness

Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (PANA) - Following high-level consultations on 23-24 Feb., ECOWAS member states Wednesday adopted a Declaration on the prevention, reduction and elimination of statelessness in West Africa at a joint UNHCR/ECOWAS Ministerial Conference hosted by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire.

At least 750,000 people are stateless or at risk of statelessness in the region and, as such, are often subject to life in limbo, with limited access to education, healthcare, and employment.

They are also vulnerable to discrimination and abuse as they have no legal existence and are not recognised in the eyes of the law.

According to the ECOWAS Commission, the adoption of the Declaration came as Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres and Vice-President of the ECOWAS Commission Toga Gayewea Mcintosh opened the Ministerial Conference on statelessness in West Africa -  the first of its kind in Africa.

“I am convinced that only true cooperation will considerably reduce statelessness in our countries. Together, we can find solutions inspired by the international treaties to put an end to this plight in 10 years,” President Ouattara said at the Conference.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, as well as the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, also delivered opening remarks.

The Conference brings together Justice, Interior and Foreign Affairs Ministers of 15 ECOWAS countries or their representatives whose portfolios cover nationality issues.

“Having a nationality is something most people take for granted – but to those who do not have one, or who cannot prove it, this lack often sentences them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair” said Mr. Guterres

Representatives of international organisations, including the African Union and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, were also present as well as UN agencies, the International Organization for Migration, representatives of civil society, national human rights institutions, academics and international experts.

“Statelessness is a matter that bears not only on the humanity and dignity of thousands of our people but also on the peace and security of the region,” declared Dr. Mcintosh

The Declaration contains 25 commitments and highlights in particular the necessity for states in the ECOWAS region to first obtain concrete information on the causes of statelessness and the number and profile of stateless persons in the region.

It also stresses that every child should acquire a nationality at birth and that all foundlings should be considered nationals of the state in which they are found. It also focuses on the need to ensure that men and women have equal rights to acquire, change and
retain their nationality and confer nationality to their children.

The text also stresses the importance of protecting stateless persons by restoring their dignity and, in particular, by providing them with a legal identity and documentation.

It invites member states who have not yet done so to accede, as soon as possible, to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
-0- PANA SEG 26Feb2015

26 Fevereiro 2015 12:21:18

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