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UNHCR Statelessness Newsletter (January - March 2021)

News and Press Release
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2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

The 1961 Convention is the only universal instrument that elaborates clear and concrete safeguards to prevent the occurrence of statelessness. Accession to the 1961 Convention equips States to avoid and resolve nationality-related disputes.


  • 4 countries only have ratified the 1961 Convention, Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho and Mozambique, with Angola being the last country to accede in October 2019

  • 8 countries have pledged to accede, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, The Republic of Congo, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

  • 3 countries have already initiated accession procedures, the Republic of Congo, Namibia and Zambia.

Awareness and Advocacy

Republic of Congo

On 18-19 February, UNHCR, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs hosted a two-day capacity building workshop in Brazzaville. The workshop was attended by 50 law students from the Faculty of Law of Marien Ngouabi University. Its objective was to train students on statelessness, with a focus on birth registration.

South Africa

On 17 February, UNHCR’s partner, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and Save the Children, with the support of Internews, a media development non-profit organisation, trained journalists in Mpumalanga on Reporting on Statelessness in South Africa.

On 2-4 March, LHR co-hosted a training workshop with the South African Judicial Education Institution for over 140 magistrates across South Africa. The purpose of the training was to increase the capacity of the judiciary on the concept causes and consequences of childhood statelessness. In addition, the workshop touched on the practical application of South Africa’s legal framework in relation to acquisition of citizenship, access to birth registration and enabling documents, highlighting the gaps in legislation and policy that bring about the risk of statelessness. Magistrates learnt about existing jurisprudence on statelessness in South Africa and ultimately the crucial role that magistrates in the Children’s Court can play in ensuring that children can access birth registration and documentation.

UNHCR’s implementing partner in South Africa, Lawyers for Human Rights was interviewed by SACBC News on statelessness and access to documentation; NewzRoom Afrika for a short documentary on undocumented South Africans. LHR and the Dobsonville Human Rights Centre, a community advice office, featured on a community TV station in a series on statelessness and belonging. The objective of the 4-part series was to share information on access to documentation and nationality.