African Press Association

West Africa intensifies efforts to address statelessness

From ALEXIS DOUMBIA in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
ABIDJAN, (CAJ News) – THE Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has pledged to eradicate statelessness by 2024.

In the region, there at least 700 000 people that are stateless and many more are believed to be at risk of statelessness, essentially because of gaps in nationality laws and obstacles in administrative procedures to establish proof of nationality.

This past weekend, ECOWAS celebrated the third anniversary of the Abidjan Declaration on the eradication of the problem.

“In the region, some nationality laws still contain discriminatory elements based on gender, ethnicity or race,” lamented Liz Ahua, United Nations High Commissionner for Refugees Regional Representative for West Africa.

UNHCR works closely with the governments of the ECOWAS region on implementing measures laid down by the Abidjan Declaration, including on how to improve quantitative and qualitative data on stateless populations.

Much progress has been made towards eradicating statelessness in the region.

Benin, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Mali have officially adopted national action plans to eliminate the problem.

Seven countries in the region have begun legislative reforms relating to nationality.

In 2017, Sierra Leone amended its nationality legislation, which now provides for gender equality with regards to the transmission of nationality.
Furthermore, 14 countries in the region have officially nominated government focal points on statelessness.

In Ivory Coast, 8 000 stateless persons received nationality certificates through a special procedure put in place.

In May 2017, West Africa became the first region in the world to develop a binding regional action plan against statelessness.

In International law a stateless person is someone who is “not considered as a national by any state.
– CAJ News