Press Release

Addressing Statelessness in Southern Africa

04 November 2021

States with upcoming national housing and populations censuses such as South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, will be incorporating questions to measure statelessness.  These efforts will go a long way towards collecting comprehensive data on statelessness enabling states to better combat the scourge.

As UNHCR marks the 7th anniversary of the #IBelong campaign, several factors - including gender and ethnic discrimination when passing on nationality; a lack of legal safeguards in nationality legislation to protect against statelessness and the lack of birth registration – lead to heightened risk of statelessness in Southern Africa. 

With three more years left to achieve its goal of eradicating statelessness by 2024, the UNHCR #IBelong campaign has led to some significant achievements since it was launched in 2014. 

  • Six countries - Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, Kingdom of Eswatini Republic of Madagascar, Republic of Namibia, and Republic of Zambia - have developed a National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate statelessness in their territories. 
  • Countries are increasingly closing the gaps to minimize and ultimately eradicate statelessness. Unlike in 2011, where only 3 countries pledged to address statelessness at the Ministerial Conference, in 2019, almost all states in the region committed to taking up activities in line with the 10 campaign targets aimed at ending statelessness, at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness.
  • To this end, about 60 pledges were made, with the highest number going to accession to statelessness conventions; reform of nationality legislation to ensure safeguards against statelessness; strengthening birth registration and collecting data. These pledges are significant and to date, 80 percent of these are slowly moving towards full implementation.

Implementation of pledges

National Action Plan:

The Kingdom of Eswatini, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have adopted National Action Plans to end statelessness. 

Conventions:

Since the launch of the #IBelong Campaign on 4 November 2014, The Republic of Angola has acceded to both the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. 

The Republic of Congo is on the verge of depositing instruments of accession to both Conventions, having finalized all internal processes, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Malawi are steadily progressing through their internal steps.

Reform of nationality law:

The Republic of Madagascar has embarked on a complete overhaul of its nationality code, aimed at removing all types of discrimination. The nationality bill will be reviewed by parliament at its upcoming sessions.  

The Kingdom of Eswatini is engaged in consultations at local and national level with various stakeholders including parliament and traditional authorities, to remove gender discrimination from its nationality law.

Strengthening birth registration:

The Republic of Congo has embarked on birth registration. This includes raising awareness on the importance of birth registration to the general public. The exercise includes a door-to-door outreach campaign as well as the issuance of birth certificates.

Mozambique is actively documenting internally displaced citizens through mobile clinics in Pemba, Cabo Delgado. Birth certificates and identity documents are being issued to Mozambicans who have lost these documents during flight or who had not had them issued before.

Data Collection:

In efforts to better understand the populations affected by statelessness and the causes giving rise to this, several states including in Kingdom of Eswatini, Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Zimbabwe have embarked on studies, pending data analysis. 

In addition, states with upcoming national housing and populations censuses such as South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, will be incorporating questions to measure statelessness.  These efforts will go a long way towards collecting comprehensive data on statelessness enabling states to better combat the scourge.

For more information, please contact:

In Pretoria (Regional Office - Southern Africa)

In Pretoria (South Africa)

Addressing Statelessness in Southern Africa

Buchizya Mseteka

Communications Specialist, UNHCR South Africa Multi-Country Office - SAMCO

Hélène Caux

UNHCR
Senior Communications Officer UNHCR Regional Office for Southern Africa

Pumla Rulashe

UNHCR
Associate Communications Officer UNHCR Regional Office for Southern Africa

UN entities involved in this initiative

UNHCR
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees