Sustainable Development Goal 16.9: ‘Legal identity’, Nationality & Statelessness
At least 15 million people face a life without nationality. Many more have no legal identity documentation and are at risk of statelessness. In many instances, the lack of legal identity documentation is primarily a resource issue, which can be resolved through spending more, increasing capacities and devising more efficient systems of registration and documentation. However, when the lack of legal identity impacts stateless communities or increases the risk of statelessness among certain groups, there is likely to be deeper, structural discrimination at play. Understanding that the denial of legal identity documentation is often a political choice, and that resulting exclusion and/or statelessness is the intended outcome of this choice, is imperative.
The exclusion of stateless groups who have been denied legal identity documentation is often intergenerational, resulting in each new stateless generation being further left behind. Such groups are the most in need of development assistance. However, their vulnerability and marginalisation often goes unrecognised and is poorly understood by those working on legal identity in the development sector. By contrast, the gains to be made by addressing structural problems and ensuring the meaningful inclusion of such individuals and groups, through the provision of proof of legal identity, can be significant.
This booklet introduces key concepts that can be adopted by legal identity practitioners to protect vulnerable and marginalised groups. It also explains how flawed identity policies can cause and/or perpetuate statelessness. Finally, it presents some strategies to help ensure statelessness is effectively addressed through inclusive and human rights based development policies on legal identity.
If you are a legal identity practitioner who would like to learn more about statelessness, or if you are a statelessness actor trying to understand how statelessness relates to legal identity, this booklet is for you.