Ms Chocaholic with lots of opinions and an attitude

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Identity a fundamental Right

The right to a nationality is so fundamental that its deprivation is considered a deprivation of human rights. There are millions who are living without any legal existence. In the eye of the law, these people do not exist! What this means is no matter how many improvements we make to laws and policies, or how much lobbying at domestic or international levels, there will be a large group of people who will still continue to go unprotected, as they do not have even the very first right -- a right to an identity.

Many benefits and access to other rights are so dependent on documents in today’s world. An identity card is often requested before a child can go to school, get health care when sick, or seek any legal protection. Without this legal document the child’s development is restricted, leading to social ills such as lack of education, which in turn obstruct productive employment.

Yet certain groups of people are left out and not recognised by any country. The problems associated with being ‘undocumented’ or ‘unregistered’ which leads to statelessness are doubly detrimental for the poor, rural, ethnic and marginalised groups who tend to form the bulk of those left out.

The causes vary from technical reasons, where the systems may not be able to reach out to all areas in the country; implementation at the local level; lack of awareness for the need of legal documentation, or simply because people do not see the importance or the need for such papers.

There are also instances where culture plays a role, such as a father who registers only the boys, while girls are left out of the system. The next generation of those under the non-registration category also became stateless as a result, compounding the problem.

There are two international legal instruments dealing with statelessness which include the 1954 and 1962 Conventions. However the problem with these instruments is that only a small number of States have ratified them, 57 and 30 respectively. What this illustrates is the need to give the issue the political priority it deserves and collaboration with government is needed to address the issue of statelessness.

To address the issue an integrated approach of simplified registration process, in particular those involving late registration, coupled with awareness raising campaigns for both the public and government officers dealing with registration process are crucial.



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