As the UNHCR #IBelong Campaign enters its third year, it has become evident that making meaningful progress towards the goal of ending statelessness demands a more ambitious approach to the whole statelessness debate. While research projects, mapping studies and doctrinal discussions have helped to clarify the challenges faced and our understanding of what is at stake, it is time to move beyond stocktaking to inspire solutions. “Solving Statelessness”, a new book co-edited by Laura van Waas (Co-Director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion) and Melanie Khanna (UNHCR’s Chief of Statelessness Section), seeks to do just that. Twenty-five experts from academia, civil society and UNHCR have collaborated to produce fourteen essays which all approach statelessness from a solutions perspective.
Statelessness was long seen as a niche, technical problem and those working in this field often described their experience as a rather lonely one. This is no longer the case today. Interest in statelessness has been steadily increasing since the late 1990s – within academia, among governments, at the UN and among civil society organisations. With a fresh sense of purpose in addressing the issue, there is now a growing international movement engaged in finding solutions – spurred on by the UNHCR-led #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024. As Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Director of International Protection, outlines in his introduction to this ground-breaking publication: “The global debates have moved beyond the need to explain the problem and its causes and consequences. The time has come to accelerate the momentum to implement durable solutions effectively.”
The essays which have been collected in this book, published by Wolf Legal Publishers, look at what is being done, and what more can be done, to address the issue of statelessness. Eight essays adopt a thematic focus, exploring perspectives, tools and techniques for solving statelessness which are relevant across different countries and regions. These include chapters on addressing statelessness through the right to equality, the Sustainable Development Goals and through the UN human rights mechanisms. The remaining six essays in the book have a regional focus, exploring region-specific challenges, developments and innovations set against the backdrop of the broader context of a global campaign to solve statelessness. These include reflections on the “new norms and new commitments” relating to the right to nationality in Africa, the avoidance of statelessness among children displaced by armed conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (see full table of contents below).
Themselves inspired by the generosity with which the authors have shared their time and expertise in collaborating on this publication, co-editors van Waas and Khanna feel that “a sense of optimism fuels the statelessness agenda today”. As they explain in the book’s preface, “after fighting hard to bring the issue out of the shadows, the small but growing community of people who have taken up the cause have found courage in the momentum achieved – both with respect to putting statelessness on the map and making real progress to resolve situations in a number of countries”.
But there is also a long way to go, which is why such knowledge-sharing efforts are so important. With contributions from both scholars and practitioners, the book is likely to be of interest to anyone engaged in studying or implementing solutions for statelessness, including researchers, government policy-makers, staff of international or regional inter-governmental bodies and UN agencies, grass-roots and international civil society organisations, legal practitioners and advanced-level students. The book has been described by Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organisation, as “essential reading for the human rights advocate or development practitioner who is committed to reaching and protecting the most marginalised in society. It amply demonstrates that unless the problem of statelessness is solved, the obligations of human rights, the aspirations of development and the rule of law will never be fully realised. Importantly, it also shows how statelessness can be solved, and so is of great practical and theoretical importance”.