The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) estimates that one million stateless people live in West Africa, a region also home to a large number of people at risk of statelessness.
Today, at least 10 million people in the world have no nationality. At the opening ceremony of the meeting of experts for the validation of the plan of action for the eradication of statelessness in West Africa in Banjul on 7 May 2017. The Gambian Minister of Interior, May Ahmad Fatty, called on ECOWAS member states to do their utmost to eradicate statelessness in the EU. “A child born in an ECOWAS state and from another state in the regional organization may not have a clear nationality and this poses enormous challenges for ECOWAS member states,” said the Gambian Minister of the Interior.
For Mr. Fatty, this situation justifies the holding of the meeting which should enable the participants to reflect collectively on the statelessness issue. “A collective problem requires a collective solution,” he said, reminding the West African states of their responsibility to eradicate statelessness through regional cooperation.
The Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Fatimata Dia Sow, stressed the priority for West Africa to eradicate statelessness. “Statelessness, like all other violations of human rights, has its roots in discriminatory practices and beliefs. Everyone has the right to a nationality, “said Dr. Dia Sow.
However, she stressed, millions of people around the world, including children and women, do not have this right for various reasons ranging from shortcomings in nationality laws to discriminatory administrative practices, written and unwritten. She recalled the efforts made by ECOWAS, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over the last two years, to meet the challenges of statelessness, address its root causes and map out a path for its eradication.
Dr Fatimata Dia Sow welcomed the adoption on 25 February 2015 of the Abidjan Declaration, through which Interior and Justice Ministers of the Member States of ECOWAS recognized statelessness as a scourge in West Africa, and has committed to ending this phenomenon by 2024. She also welcomed the elaboration by the ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with UNHCR, of an 8-year Action Plan as a means of implementing the Declaration.
UNHCR Regional Representative for West Africa, Ms. Liz Kpam Ahua, said the Plan translates the commitments made in Abidjan into feasible actions, developing concrete measures and setting deadlines for achieving the targets set. “We have the opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people who are stateless or at risk of statelessness in the region so that by 2024 anyone living in the ECOWAS area can say : I am a citizen of … ” Said Mrs. Ahua.
In the Gambian capital, we have the opportunity to pose the next milestone in the fight against statelessness in West Africa, she hinted. Participants at the present meeting will discuss the Regional Action Plan, which will then be submitted for validation at the meeting of Justice and Interior Ministers of ECOWAS Member States, scheduled for 9 May 2017, Banjul.
Statelessness refers to the condition of a person who is not considered by their State to be a national, in accordance with its legislation.Today, at least 10 million people in the world have no nationality. It is estimated that one million stateless people live in West Africa, a region also home to a large number of people at risk of statelessness.