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UNHCR, civil society launch first regional network to address statelessness in east Africa

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UNHCR, civil society launch first regional network to address statelessness in east Africa

20 May 2022
Kenya. UNHCR, civil society in eastern Africa launch first regional network on statelessness
UNHCR staff and civil society representatives at the end of a two-day regional statelessness retreat in Nairobi, Kenya, held in May 2022.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency together with 15 civil society organizations from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Sudan, and Rwanda have launched the region’s first statelessness network, to advance ongoing efforts in eradicating statelessness in the region. Comprising human rights and paralegal aid organizations and other civil society actors working with minority communities, the coalition dubbed the ‘Eastern Africa Nationality Network’ seeks to collaborate on regional advocacy efforts towards ending the issue in the region.

The network was launched at the Regional Statelessness Retreat for civil society actors held in Nairobi on 10 and 11 May 2022. During the retreat, representatives from civil society from the Southern Africa Nationality Network shared perspectives on how such a collaboration can support with advocacy to end statelessness. Possible support in advocating for bridging the statelessness legal gaps with governments as well as accessing funding was also discussed by key stakeholders present as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues.

“This is an important opportunity to increase our engagement with grassroot civil society organizations in the region, who are often front and center in advocating for ways to address statelessness,” said UNHCR’s Regional Bureau Director Clementine Nkweta-Salami. “We particularly acknowledge their efforts in empowering marginalized communities, enhancing their access to legal identity documentation to ensure no one is left behind,” said Nkweta-Salami.

“Some countries in this region have made notable steps in addressing this situation, such as granting citizenship to stateless persons to put an end to their legal limbo, or by providing birth certificates to children at risk of statelessness. However, there is still much more to be done. Through this regional network, we will be able to increase understanding on how crucial it is for governments to enable people acquire nationality and allow them to contribute to their society,” said Nkweta-Salami.

To guide joint activities contributing to eradicating statelessness within the regional network, civil society members aim to develop a joint plan detailing key actions including participation in global forums such as this year’s Global Statelessness Retreat scheduled to take place in May in Geneva. The regional network’s members have also committed to a memorandum of establishment with common goals and principles underpinning engagement and collaboration in the network. The network will also work to establish linkages with similar regional movements in the continent and globally as well as with stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness, for further shared learning and regional advocacy.

“This is a demonstration of our commitment to harness our expertise and shared experiences and advance collective actions and advocacy for the benefit of thousands of people in this region who are still stateless,” said Kenya Human Rights Commission’s Program Advisor on Citizenship and Statelessness, Robert Waweru, also part of the network’s executive committee. “We hope that through this regional platform, the visibility and credibility of our work will be improved, enabling us to broaden support from decision makers to find solutions that would benefit people affected by statelessness particularly children, cross-border populations and minority communitiess as well as descendants of historical migrants,” said Waweru.

The two-day retreat also discussed progress and challenges on the #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness as well as expected results and outcomes within the region by the end of the campaign in 2024. A joint communique with details of key actions and recommendations from the retreat will also be made available.

Over 103,000 stateless persons and people at risk of statelessness are estimated in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as well as Burundi, although these figures are expected to be much higher.

For more information please contact:

In Nairobi, Faith Kasina, [email protected], +254 113 427 094