Côte d'Ivoire becomes latest country to accede to statelessness conventions

Briefing Notes, 4 October 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 October 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday (Thursday), Côte d'Ivoire acceded to the international conventions on statelessness. This is one of key measures the government is taking to reduce the number of stateless people in the country.

An estimated 700,000 people in Cote d'Ivoire are currently stateless or lack documentation to prove their nationality. As a result, they cannot access services such as education and healthcare. Many of the stateless are children whose births were never registered and often they are unable to enrol in school.

UNHCR welcomes the accession by Cote d'Ivoire and its commitment to the protection of the fundamental right to nationality. For decades, proof of Ivoirian citizenship has been a controversial socio-political issue. The right to land titles was particularly contentious, sometimes leading to communal conflict.

The government is now working to clarify thousands of cases of individuals of undetermined nationality. It recently approved a reform of the nationality law which will allow stateless people and others born in the country to apply for citizenship if they have resided there for decades.

Côte d'Ivoire is the 20th State to accede to one or both stateless conventions since 2011 when UNHCR began a campaign to promote these legal instruments. The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons sets out the rights of stateless people and now has 79 States parties. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness establishes safeguards to prevent statelessness which are to be included in each country's nationality law. It has 54 States parties.

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