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Global Migration Centre

Statelessness in international law: which regime(s) for which right(s)?

This research project aimed to document and analyse the international legal regime governing statelessness. This project began in January 2012 thanks to a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Statelessness affects an estimated 12 million people globally. This worldwide phenomenon has a particularly thorny impact on the lives of individuals, as possession of nationality is a prerequisite for participation in society and effective protection of human rights. Statelessness occurs for a variety of reasons, including discrimination against minority groups, state secession and succession as well as inadequate and conflicting domestic legislation.

Furthermore, the current international legal framework is undermined by several shortcomings. In particular, the two United Nations treaties specifically devoted to this enduring phenomenon (i.e. the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness) are poorly ratified by states.

In addition to these specific instruments, the other applicable norms governing statelessness are dispersed among various sources of international law. The current international legal framework governing statelessness is composed of a wide variety of principles and rules belonging to numerous branches of international law (such as refugee law, human rights law, private international law and the law governing state succession). The amalgam of such an eclectic set of norms far from constitutes a comprehensive regime. In turn, this undermines their understanding and coherent application by states.

The main objective of this research project was to propose a holistic approach to statelessness with a view to identifying best practices relevant for states and international organisations. It accordingly assessed whether the existing applicable norms are adequate and to what extent they should be amended to tackle the multifaceted challenges of statelessness.

Project Team

Céline Bauloz, Senior Researcher
Géraldine Ruiz, Senior Coordinator