Abidjan Declaration 1st Anniversary:UNHCR Proposes Establishment Of National Task Team On Statelessness
As West Africa today celebrates the first anniversary of the Abidjan Declaration on the eradication of statelessness,a statement nade available to newsmen in Abuja Nigeria said Some 22,000 people acquired identity documents in West Africa in past year.
The Declaration, adopted on 25 February 2015 by the Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the occasion of a ministerial conference organized by the United Nations High Commissioner and ECOWAS, contains 25 commitments.
It underlines, among other things, the vital need for the States to ensure that everyone within the region has a recognized nationality.
Speaking on the occasion, during a courtesy call to the minister of interior, the UNHCR Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS Mrs. Angel Dikongue Atangana said while the scope of statelessness in Nigeria is undetermined; the risks of statelessness exist.
These risks arise from gaps in legislation (e.g. 1999 Constitution; lack of birth registration; difficulties in proving nationalities; delineation of international borders/state succession etc.
“To implement the commitments in the Abidjan Declaration, specifically the development and implementation of a national action plan (Commitment 24) on statelessness; UNHCR proposes the establishment of a national task team on statelessness to be led by the Ministry of Interior (including MDAs, NGOs/CSO, UN agencies).
UNHCR is available to provide technical support and to share experience from other countries.” Mrs. Dikongue said.
She called on the Minister of Interior (and his staff in attendance) to join the global movement to end the injustice of statelessness by signing the UNHCR Open Letter to End Statelessness by 2024.
In Nigeria, UNHCR has since launched the campaign to encourage people the global #I belong campaign to end statelessness within a decade.
In his turn, the minister of Interior Abdulrahman Dambazau promised UNHCR that his ministry will do all what it takes to domesticate all relevant conventions on statelessness and internally displaced persons (IDPs), ratified by Nigeria.
He said Nigeria was conscious about encouraging returns to unsafe areas and also expressed willingness to work with UNHCR on the tripartite process of repatriating refugees in safety and dignity.
The minister and his close collaborators also signed the Open Letter.
Around one million people are stateless or at risk of statelessness in West Africa. Lacking identification documents, they have limited access to education, healthcare, employment and land.
They are also more exposed to discrimination and abuse because they are not recognized in the eyes of the law.
“We celebrate the progress made in several countries since the adoption of the Declaration last year, as thousands of people who, until now, did not have a determined nationality, will come out of the shadows.
Thanks to the advanced legislative and administrative reforms currently being implemented in several States in West Africa, these men, women and children will finally be able to obtain a legal identity”, declared Liz Ahua, Regional Representative of UNHCR for West Africa in Dakar.
“The Abidjan Declaration is a pioneered moment in the global fight to eradicate statelessness not only in the region but also worldwide.
We hope that it will inspire other countries and regions in the world to change their nationality laws so all can enjoy a proper identity hence exercice their rights”.
One year after the adoption of the Declaration, several States have taken concrete measures to fight the scourge of statelessness.
Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, adopted a special law allowing a certain group of people, including stateless people, to acquire Ivoirian nationality by declaration*.
This law has enabled more than 123,000 people, including stateless ones, to submit their applications to the Ivorian authorities.
Today, at least 6,400 people have already acquired documents confirming their nationality, while 6,000 others have received late birth certificates, which constitutes an important step towards confirming their nationality.