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More leading voices join UNHCR #IBelong
Campaign to End Statelessness

Press releases

More leading voices join UNHCR #IBelong
Campaign to End Statelessness

Announcement comes as UN Refugee Agency focuses on statelessness caused by gender discrimination
8 March 2015

This international women's day, the UN refugee agency wants to remind the world that women in 27 countries are still not allowed to pass their nationality on to their children on an equal basis with men, creating a cruel cycle of statelessness.

On Tuesday March 10th, UNHCR will co-host an event at UN Headquarters in New York to shine a light on this issue in order to encourage states to reform their nationality laws. Reform of nationality laws is a key element in UNHCR's #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.

To help spur action on this situation and on statelessness in general, UNHCR is honored to announce another group of high level supporters who have signed up to its #IBelong Campaign Open Letter which encourages world leaders to end statelessness by 2024.

Around the world at least ten million people have no nationality - a situation that often deprives them of access to the most basic rights: education, health care, social services, the ability to open a bank account, buy a house or even get married.

The new supporters to the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness include*:

  • Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender from Yemen
  • Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender from Ireland
  • Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Tanzania
  • Rokia Traoré singer songwriter from Mali
  • Angelique Kidjo, singer songwriter from Benin
  • Zainab Salbi, author and founder, Women for Women International,
  • Peter Capaldi, British actor
  • Neil Gaiman, writer, and author

Malian singer songwriter Rokia Traoré said: 'As a mother it seems inconceivable that I would not be able to pass my nationality on to my children. We need to make sure that all mothers and their children can say #IBelong.'

These supporters join a long and distinguished list of other signatories that include several former heads of State, and celebrated human rights defenders, including; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. They have joined the call to urge global action to ensure that everyone in the world has the right to a nationality.

The high-level side event on March 10 coincides with the Beijing +20 conference on women's rights at UN Headquarters in New York. The event, on Equal Nationality Rights aims to encourage countries to change their nationality laws.

UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk will lead the call for countries to reform their nationality laws.

"When a woman cannot pass on her nationality to her children, the effect can be crippling. Without a nationality, mothers and their children are often deprived of education and medical care and can be more vulnerable to exploitation, early marriage, violence or even human trafficking,"

In the past 10 years, a dozen countries have reformed their laws to enable women to pass their nationality to their children equally with men. The New York event will build momentum towards a September UN pledging conference, where it is hoped that more governments will commit to reform their laws to ensure gender parity in nationality matters.


Media Contacts

Stephen Pattison, UNHCR [email protected] +41 79500 8774

*Full list of new signatories


  • Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and former Vice Foreign Minister of Egypt
  • Dr Samuel Nujoma, former President of Namibia
  • António Manuel Mascarenhas Gomes Monteiro, former President of Cape Verde
  • Benjamin William Mkapa, former President of Tanzania
  • Babacar Ndiaye, former President of the African Development Bank
  • General Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State of Nigeria
  • Karl Offmann, former President of Mauritius
  • Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique
  • Nicephore Dieudonne Soglo, former President of Benin
  • Professor Amos Claudius Sawyer, former President of the Interim Government of National Unity of Liberia
  • Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré, former President of Mali and Chairperson of the African Union Commission
  • Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, former Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania and Former Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity
  • Édouard Kodjovi Kodjo, former Prime Minister of Togo and Former Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity

Nobel Laureates:

  • Mairead Maguire, Ireland, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976)
  • Tawakkol Karman Nobel Peace Laureate (2011), Yemeni journalist, politician and human rights activist.

High Profile Supporters:

  • Neil Gaiman, writer, United Kingdom
  • Colin Archer, International Peace Bureau, Secretary General
  • Baaba Maal, Singer and Composer, Senegal
  • Guor Mading Maker, Track and Field Athlete, South Sudan
  • Peter Capaldi, Actor/Director and UNHCR Supporter, United Kingdom
  • Rokia Traoré, Singer Songwriter, Mali
  • Zainab Salbi, Author and Founder, Women for Women International, Iraq (Iraqi American)
  • Angelique Kidjo, Singer Songwriter, Benin
  • Marguerite Abouet, writer, screenwriter and director, Côte d'Ivoire
  • Salif Traoré (Asalfo), Singer and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Côte d'Ivoire

About the #ibelong campaign

On 4 November 2014, UNHCR launched its #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness in 10 years. Statelessness is an entirely a man-made problem and is relatively easy to resolve and prevent. With the necessary political will and public support, millions of people around the world could acquire a nationality and prevent their children from being born stateless. The #IBelong Campaign is supported by a Global Action Plan to End Statelessness: 2014 - 2024, which sets concrete steps for States to help resolve the problem. By gaining nationality - the estimated ten million stateless people around the world could gain full access to the rights that often flow from holding a nationality and finally enjoy a sense of belonging in their communities.