On May 20, 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) adopted the Guidelines on Statelessness (on Loss and Deprivation of Nationality under Articles 5-9 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness). The conventions related to the fight against statelessness, as well as the UNHCR guidelines, represent the operationalization of the right to citizenship, which is proclaimed by the most important universal international legal documents. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality nor denied the right to change the nationality.

UNHCR’s jurisdiction over stateless persons was established by the UNHCR Statute and initially applied only to stateless refugees, however the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness extended the mandate of UNHCR to persons under that document. By Resolution 61/137 of 2006, the UN General Assembly endorsed UNHCR Executive Board Conclusion No. 106, which sets out four broad areas of responsibility for UNHCR: identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness, and the protection of stateless persons.

The guidelines rely on the summaries of the conclusions of an expert meeting on the interpretation of the 1961 Convention held in Tunis, Tunisia, from 31 October to 1 November 2013, and an expert meeting on deprivation of citizenship held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 5 to 6 December 2018 and they represent the fifth guidelines on statelessness.

The significance of the Guidelines is reflected in the fact that they direct the actions of the competent state bodies, but also legal practitioners, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, in matters related to the loss and deprivation of citizenship.

Given that, according to UNHCR estimates, there are several million stateless persons in the world, guidelines of this kind are a useful tool in resolving the issue of statelessness and enabling stateless persons to acquire citizenship and thus enjoy the right to citizenship as a human right.

[1] Guidelines on Statelessness No.5: Loss and Deprivation of Nationality under Articles 5-9 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

The Guidelines can be downloaded here.