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Minorities, Discrimination and Statelessness

OHCHR and minorities

Racial discrimination or other discrimination such as on the grounds of minority status, religion or belief, age, gender identity or gender expression, disability, language, sex, sex characteristics or sexual orientation, as well as intersectional or multiple forms of discrimination, is a cause of statelessness. It is estimated that more than 75% of the world’s known stateless populations are members of minority groups. 

Statelessness intersects with and exacerbates barriers already faced by minorities and other disadvantaged groups. It further limits their access to services and the enjoyment of their human rights. As flagged by the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, women belonging to minorities may be further marginalized by gender-based discrimination in relation to their acquisition, change or retention of nationality and the conferral of nationality on their children. While nationality alone is not a cure for the stigmatization and discrimination faced by stateless minorities, it is generally crucial to the full and equal exercise of human rights and freedoms. 

Consultations conducted in the summer of 2021

In the run-up to an October 2021 Roundtable on Equality and Non-Discrimination in Nationality Matters to End Statelessness, OHCHR and UNHCR undertook a stocktaking on national laws, policies and practices in this area. 

A short survey was distributed to UN Member States, and public consultation was also opened online. While many of the responses were sent confidentially, some respondents have agreed to making them public. These inputs follow here:

October 2021 roundtable

Building on the summer 2021 consultation, in October 2021 OHCHR and UNHCR will jointly convene a Virtual Roundtable on Equality and Non-discrimination in Nationality Matters to End Statelessness. The objectives of the roundtable are:

  1. to raise awareness of the importance of the right to nationality by calling attention to the plight of stateless populations around the world, in particular those who are stateless as a result of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, age, gender, disability, language and SOGIESC; 
  2. to encourage States to share and adopt good practices to eliminate discrimination from their nationality laws, policies and practices; and 
  3. to encourage greater attention to these issues by UN human rights mechanisms, as well as stronger coordination among them where relevant.

Following the event, a meeting report will be drafted reflecting good practices and recommendations emanating from discussions during the event. The report will feed into the fourteenth session of the Forum on Minority Issues, which is convened in December 2021 and will be shared with relevant UN Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures mandate holders, and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI).  

Key texts on minorities, statelessness and human rights

Reports from the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures mandate holders 

  • Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance, paras. 26-29, UN Doc. A/75/385, 12 October 2020.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Priorities and Vision for the Mandate, paras. 36-40, UN Doc. A/HRC/37/66, 16 January 2018.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Updates of the Special Rapporteur’s First Thematic Report on Statelessness as a Minority Issue, paras. 85-87, UN Doc. A/HRC/40/64, 9 January 2019.
  • Report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Racial Discrimination in the Context of Citizenship, Nationality and Immigration Status, paras. 6-15, UN Doc. A/HRC/38/52, 25 April 2018.

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