Statelessness: An analytical framework for prevention, reduction and protection

UNHCR (2008). Statelessness: An analytical framework for prevention, reduction and protection



Fundamental human rights are guaranteed by law to all men, women and children, regardless of their nationality. Nevertheless, the stark reality is that many millions of people around the world are denied the exercise of their most basic human rights because they are not recognized as citizens of any country. The plight of ‘stateless persons’ is under-appreciated, inadequately documented and badly in need of more robust and effective responses.

Because no country considers them citizens, stateless persons often do not have access to the rights that citizens take for granted. Statelessness frequently means living without identity documents conferring legal personality and the rights that go with them – access to health care, education, property rights, and the ability to move freely. Births and deaths may not be registered with the result that stateless persons legally can be invisible: their existence experienced, yet never legally recognized.

Sixty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirmed the right of everyone to a nationality. Two additional international instruments have since been promulgated to enhance protection and reduce statelessness: the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Their still too limited ratification is a source of concern, stemming in part as it does from a lack of understanding as to the extent of the problem and the severity of the consequences. Moreover, even where these issues may be appreciated, there are still the sovereignty concerns to overcome.

This Framework should help on each of these scores. Specifically, it is intended to assist States, UNHCRand partners to better understand the causes of statelessness, the consequences and the protection needs of the affected persons. It should also stimulate creative approaches to minimizing the risks in specific contexts and to strategizing to progressively and concretely reduce the causes of statelessness and to meet the needs and protect the rights of the stateless. 

While UNHCR has a specific mandate to contribute to the prevention and reduction of statelessness and to the protection of stateless people, effective responses require collaboration with States, partners and those most at risk. This Framework is one contribution to this collective effort.

Erika Feller

Assistant High Commissioner – Protection

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


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