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African leader’s efforts to eradicate statelessness wins plaudits from UNHCR

African leader’s efforts to eradicate statelessness wins plaudits from UNHCR

The recent adoption by African leaders of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Relating to the Specific Aspects of the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa has received approbation.

In a statement, the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR) – a UN body mandated to prevent and reduce statelessness around the world – said the move puts African countries on the right rails in terms of addressing the situation of the continent’s stateless persons who have been cut out from enjoying several of their human rights.

The Protocol aims at dismantling all legal and other palpable barriers preventing stateless people and those at risk of statelessness from exercising their right to a nationality. Its implementation will make it possible for them to have better access to fundamental human rights, as well as national services such as health, education, financial services, and formal employment.

The adoption of the Protocol was among the many decisions taken by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union during their 37th summit which took place on February 17 and 18 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Ruvendrini Menikdiwela called it “a critical step in truly ending statelessness for people in Africa.”

“We stand ready to work with States on the ratification, domestication, and implementation of this Protocol so that millions of vulnerable people can access basic human rights and services, improve their lives and contribute meaningfully to the development of their societies.”

As noted in the UNHCR statement, the move by the AU is in line with a commitment taken by the AU Commission in 2019 during the UNHCR High Level Segment on Statelessness as well as the maiden Global Refugee Forum held in 2019, which called for the adoption, ratification and implementation of the Protocol by AU Member States.

The UN agency also recognized some of the efforts already made by some African countries such as Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania, in providing legal ID for stateless people or those with related status.

With the adoption of the Protocol, it now requires ratification by at least 15 AU member states for it to come into force.

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