Statelessness is not in a child's best interests. Article 7 of the CRC obliges States Parties to realise every child's right to acquire a nationality (paragraph 1), and to ensure the implementation of this right, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless (paragraph 2).
Addressing childhood statelessness is not only a basic obligation accepted by States in ratifying the CRC; it is also an essential step in ensuring all rights guaranteed by the CRC to all children within their territory or jurisdiction, and an important contribution to reducing statelessness generally by preventing new cases of statelessness occurring.
From a young age, stateless children are aware of the disadvantage and discrimination they face.
"AII my friends go to places and I could not go to them. I feel sad because I don't have ID and all my friends have ID . . . I don't like to be stateless because it's not fair"
9 year old Rama, in Lebanon
The challenge of childhood statelessness
Despite the fact that the right to a nationality is affirmed by the CRC (which has near universal ratification), millions of children around the world are stateless, and over 70,000 children are born into statelessness each year. States set their own rules on who is a national, with certain limitations under international law, such as the prohibition of discrimination and arbitrariness. Statelessness mostly occurs when these limitations are disregarded in law or practice, and reseach shows there is often an element of discrimination underlying the statelessness of particular individuals or groups. The main causes of statelessness are:
- The inheritance of statelessness by new-borns, from their parents
- Gaps in and conflicts between nationality laws
- State succession and the legacy of colonisation
- Arbitrary deprivation of nationality
- Administrative barriers and lack of documentation proving links to a country
Childhood statelessness may have varied and sometimes complex causes, but is is an avoidable and resolvable problem. The CRC is an important mechanism through which the issue can be raised and addressed. Children will generally only have a strong connection to one or two States through place of birth and parentage - which should (in theory) allow for a clear and complicated pathway to nationality.