UNHCR in collaboration with the League of Arab States are strongly advocating and seeking solutions to address risks of women and children suffering from undocumented existence within their communities or host communities that may arise from the lack of gender equality in nationality laws, while also ensuring that every child begins life with a birth certificate that serves as proof of their legal identity, enhances the enjoyment of key child rights, and documents the child’s links to their country of nationality.
UNHCR and the League of Arab States convened a Regional Expert meeting entitled “Our Children, Our Future: Belonging and Legal Identity” that took place in October 2016 in Cairo, whereby Member States’ representatives reaffirmed their commitment to protect the legal identity of all children in the Arab region, and to work in concert to identify and promote solutions at the national and regional levels.
Building on this momentum, the First Arab Conference on Women’s Nationality Rights took place in October 2017 with the aim to advance the discussion between Arab states, to share good practices and exchange views on regional opportunities. The conference was co-organized by UNHCR and League of Arab States and provided added values to previous efforts by focusing on how reforms were achieved on nationality laws.
In February 2018, UNHCR and the League of Arab States (LAS) organized the first ever Ministerial Conference on “Belonging and Legal Identity” in Tunis. The Ministerial Conference built on important global and regional frameworks and declarations such as the Arab Charter on Human Rights, the Sharjah Declaration on “Fundamental Principles for the Protection of Refugee Children”, the “Cairo Declaration for the Advancement of Women” and the “Arab Strategy for Women Development 2030”. The Ministerial Conference led to the Arab Declaration on “Belonging and Legal Identity” that called explicitly to end statelessness in the region.
The conference also witnessed the launching of the regional campaign #I am here# in cooperation with the Arab League, which affirms the rights of women to a nationality, and the right of every child in the Arab region to acquire nationality at birth and identification documents that determine their identity and enjoyment of all the rights guaranteed to the child in accordance with regional and international treaties and conventions.
On 25 May 2021, LAS in cooperation with UNHCR and the General Secretariat of the Arab Interior Ministers’ Council organized the regional meeting: Towards a Regional Action Plan on Belonging and Legal Identity, in the presence of representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Foreign Affairs at member state countries as well as representatives of regional and international organizations, and partners from the civil society. Participants worked on preparing a regional action plan to facilitate the implementation of the Arab Declaration on Belonging and Legal Identity that was issued under the auspices of the Republic of Tunisia in February 2018. The meeting also presented a Regional Toolkit on Nationality Legislation, which is an instrument that was called for in the second recommendation contained in the Arab Declaration and sheds lights on the most favorable provisions on nationality in line with international standards.