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Mainstreaming statelessness and the right to nationality in the Universal Periodic Review. UPR Third Cycle evaluation and lessons for the Future
A first of its kind report has been launched in Geneva, on March 17 2023, to examine how states have responded through the UN Human Rights Council to the more than 15 million people affected globally by statelessness, denied the right to a nationality and other fundamental human rights.
The report is based on extensive research and confirms the vital importance of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to mainstream statelessness as a cross-cutting human rights issues and the only review mechanism whereby states themselves issue recommendations to other states on protecting the right to a nationality and the rights of stateless people. The report highlights key findings from the Third UPR Cycle and lessons learned for the Fourth UPR Cycle, which started on 27 February 2023.
- The UPR has proved to be an influential mechanism in raising awareness that state sovereignty in nationality matters is constrained by international law, and that ensuring the right to a nationality for all is a collective effort of the international community of states.
- Recommendations increased from 150 in the First Cycle to 635 in the Third Cycle, during which around 80% of states under review received at least one recommendation relating to nationality and statelessness. These recommendations were issued by 121 states.
- Several individual states have emerged as key promotors of the right to nationality and/or the rights of stateless people, with almost a third of all recommendations delivered by just nine countries (Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, Uruguay, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Spain, Argentina, and Honduras).
- Promoting gender equality in nationality law received the most attention, with 143 recommendations on this issue. There has been recognition of gender discrimination in nationality law being a cross-cutting human rights issue affecting women’s participation in society and the impact this can have on children.
- The UPR has also increasingly been used to spotlight big or emerging statelessness crises in states under review. This resulted in a clear increase in the number of recommendations, over and above the level that the issues raised receive in general, showing how the UPR as a review mechanism can prioritise making recommendations on current and urgent matters.
- Nationality rights violations, particularly the child’s right to nationality and the nationality rights of minorities (i.e. relating to racial/ethnic/religious discriminatory nationality systems) urgently require increased attention. Discrimination is the main root cause of statelessness and recommendations play an important role in increasing international pressure to address discrimination.
During the Fourth Cycle, it is crucial to pay more attention to the root causes, the hidden and systemic issues arising, and the different consequential human rights violations experienced by stateless people. It is also essential to truly centre and include affected communities in the UPR process. UN stakeholders and civil society must prioritise the centring of stateless-leaders and their input into the UPR process. States are also invited to consider ways to improve accessibility of people affected by statelessness to the UPR process, including through online consultation opportunities in the lead up to a review.