The prerequisite for solving a problem is to understand it - identification of statelessness goes far beyond acquiring statistics on stateless populations. The causes of statelessness, the characteristics of the population, and the problems they face, are the kinds of issues that UNHCR and its partners must examine to craft a response strategy.
In many countries, the fact that stateless people live on the margins of society and are undocumented makes it difficult to understand their situation. In order to gather basic statistical information, UNHCR not only works with governments and sister UN agencies, but also provides support to activities like population censuses.
Going beyond mere numbers, UNHCR analyzes legislation to identify gaps which have led to statelessness and researches the situation of people who lack a nationality. While this research is important for a basic understanding of the problem, it is meaningless without first-hand information. Whenever possible, UNHCR interviews stateless people about their situation and seeks their views on solutions. We also try to identify and work with other stakeholders, including institutions and experts who have an influence on the situation.
Identification relates directly to prevention of statelessness (when identifying gaps in legislation), reduction (when gauging opportunities for solutions) and protection (when talking to stateless people about their daily lives and the human rights problems they face).