On 5-6 September the Second Regional Conference on the Right to Legal Identity and Prevention of Statelessness “Leaving No One Behind at Birth” attended by over 80 delegates from Central Asia took place in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The conference is organized by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) jointly with the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan, in close coordination with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN Economic and Social Committee of Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) to explore the concrete efforts in addressing birth registration from the specific perspective of preventing statelessness and ensuring that no child is born stateless in Central Asia.
Even though the birth registration rate in Central Asia is relatively high (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan at the rate of 100%, the Kyrgyz Republic with 98%, and Tajikistan with 96%), the problem of birth registration in Central Asia countries persists on the ground for children born to undocumented migrants and persons with undetermined nationality. Lack of birth registration per se does not make children stateless, however, absence of a birth registration and a birth certificate may cause difficulties to a person to prove that he/she has a legal link to a state.
As part of the conference participants reviewed the progress and remaining gaps in providing birth registration and a right to nationality to all children born on the territory of the country; shared best practices on digitalization and synchronization of birth registration data for the prevention of statelessness; and discuss the implementation of recommendations for amendment of national legislation related to birth registration. Delegates also discussed the achievements on reducing and preventing statelessness in the first half of the global #IBELONG campaign to end statelessness and make renewed commitments of ending it by 2024. Furthermore, at the Conference the states had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming round of national censuses and how it may be used in mapping the full scale of unregistered children and stateless population.
Conference participants included national Ombudspersons offices and senior Government Representatives of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan and civil society organizations with practical experience in the area of statelessness; and international actors,organizations and UN. The conference was opened by Elvira Azimova, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Marat Beketayev, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, and Arthur van Diesen, UNICEF Representative in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
“In a world composed of States, the condition of being stateless is an anomaly and one that is within the power of the countries of this world to correct through relatively straightforward, cost-effective actions, such as reforming the nationality laws to include vital safeguards to prevent children from being born stateless; improving birth registration, including late birth registration, so that vulnerable communities are able to obtain proof of their place of birth and parentage with the issuance of birth certificates.”
Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific
As the expected outcome, participants will establish a regional framework of sharing of best-practices in the area of legislative and procedural amendments, review remaining gaps and required follow-up actions to ensure that all children born in Central Asia are registered at birth, have access to birth certificates and a right to nationality.
“Ensuring birth registration and citizenship is important for every child’s future. Birth registration is a key point to ensure that every child is counted and has access to essential services such as health, education and social protection. Registering children at birth is the first step in securing their recognition before the law, safeguarding their rights, and ensuring that any violation of these rights does not go unnoticed.”
Arthur van Diesen, UNICEF representative in Kazakhstan
As an additional outcome, the Central Asian states will be assisted to present key achievements on reduction and prevention of statelessness, as well as formulate concrete pledges of further addressing the statelessness by 2024 for the global high-level meeting on statelessness planned for 7 October 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland
The event is organized in the context of the mid-point of the UNHCR ten-year #IBELONG campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 and the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The conference contributes to the achievement of target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals related to documenting people. It also reviews the progress since June 2018 when the first Regional Conference was organized in Almaty.
The problem of statelessness affects millions of people worldwide, with devastating consequences that deprive them of legal rights or basic services, leaving them politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against, and particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Ending statelessness worldwide is an ambitious but achievable goal with strong momentum behind it.