VUMBA— The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has hailed Zimbabwe for taking a bold stance to join a global fight against Statelessness.
Article 1 (1) of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons defines a stateless person as ‘a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law'.
Addressing parliamentarians last Friday (November 8) on National and Statelessness dialogue, UNHCR Deputy Director Regional Bureau for Southern Africa Leonard Zulu said Zimbabwe’s commitment in fight against Statelessness was commendable.
“Zimbabwe has already repeatedly demonstrated its capacity and courage by embracing essential reforms. I have no doubt that, as on many other issues, Zimbabwe will demonstrate the leadership and vision necessary to make decisive progress of ensuring that no one is at risk of Statelessness,” said Zulu.
In 2014, the United Nations (UN) with the approval of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary
General launched a campaign to end Statelessness by 2024.
According to UN statistics, there are between 10-12 million people who are Stateless around the world whilst a child is born Stateless every 10 minutes.
Zulu reiterated the UNHCR’s commitment to ensure that Zimbabwe succeeds in the project adding that although it’s ambitious, it’s achievable.
“I can assure you that UNHCR will do its utmost to support you in this indispensable effort. I am counting on the strong support of Zimbabwe and other SADC member states in helping us to reach that goal of ending statelessness by 2024. There is strong momentum that makes this ambitious goal possible,” said Zulu.
He said Zimbabwe has the opportunity to develop a comprehensive action plan to prevent Statelessness in the country.
“Such a plan is necessary to realize Zimbabwe`s pledge made in October 2019 in Geneva to contribute to ending Statelessness globally.
“Ultimately, the concept of ‘belonging’ goes beyond legal texts and identity documents. It requires the political will to promote tolerance and acceptance of one another and create a social and human space where all members of the society can be recognized,” said Zulu.
He said Statelessness is an essential issue for human and state security, particularly in a region that is legitimately concerned about protection of its citizens in face of rising security threats.
“Perhaps even more serious, depriving persons of a nationality constitutes for the country a missed opportunity for development and prosperity.
“Ensuring that everyone can enjoy their right to a State, also allows a State to rely on the potential and talents of hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise be marginalized and excluded,” said Zulu.
Zulu said UNHCR`s plan of action to end Statelessness is a central element of the ‘I Belong Campaign’.
“The first country in the world to have adopted a national action plan on Statelessness was Benin. Across Africa, there is an increase awareness of the importance of the right to nationality, with a growing number of adoption of actions plans to end statelessness, nationality reforms, and increase of birth registration rate.
“I trust that soon, similar efforts will be effectively undertaken in Zimbabwe. For my part, I assure you that UNHCR will do its utmost to support you in the implementation of national action plan,” said Zulu.