Activating the CRC - tools for civil society engagement
In June 2016, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) launched a Toolkit to assist civil society in its endeavours to effectively engage the Committee on the Rights of the Child to ensure that states fulfil their obligations under Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to promote, respect and fulfil every child’s right to acquire a nationality, and to ensure that no child is stateless.
The CRC Toolkit is free to download (as a whole or in individual sections) and can also be navigated online at www.statelessnessandhumanrights.org.
The CRC Toolkit comprises ten sections which can be read together or individually, depending on the reader’s existing level of knowledge and interest. Each section serves a specific purpose, while also being part of a collection of Tools which provide civil society actors, including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), national human right institutions and Ombudspersons with a wide range of information and advice.
After an introduction (1) which sets out the purpose and aims of the CRC Toolkit and explains how it can be used, two substantive sections outline the scope and content of every child’s right to a nationality (2), followed by a closer look at the Committee on the Rights of the Child, its mandate and its work to date to ensure that the right of every child to a nationality is realised (3). This part includes a summary of the recommendations the Committee has made on the content / substance of the right (see graphic for the topics the Committee has dealt with), as well as on general measures of implementation.
The next two sections of the CRC Toolkit help civil society actors to identify opportunities for engagement with the Committee. An overview is given of the CRC reporting cycle – its different stages and the opportunities these each present for civil society engagement, the role that civil society actors can play in this process and relevant considerations for civil society actors in this regard (4). After that, a checklist for identifying issues relating to the child’s right to a nationality offers concrete questions to guide civil society stakeholders in the assessment of issues, legal gaps, and conditions in which statelessness may arise in countries being reviewed (5). A condensed version of this checklist is included later in this piece.
If an opportunity for engagement with the Committee on the Rights of the Child has been identified, the CRC Toolkit can also help to facilitate that engagement. It provides a template for civil society submissions on the child’s right to a nationality (6). Instructions are also given on how to use the CRC Concluding Observations Database on the child’s right to a nationality which accompanies the CRC Toolkit and which contains information on the content of the recommendations made by the Committee (7). The instructions outline how different sorts of queries can be made and gives examples of how to look up information in the database. Finally, the CRC Toolkit also contains relevant excerpts of other treaties, Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures (8); an overview of other resources and further reading (9); and a list of all abbreviations with a glossary of key terms used in the Toolkit (10).
Advocacy using the CRC Toolkit: the example of Norway
In October 2016, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security issued an instruction which greatly improved access to nationality for stateless children born in the country. The problematic requirement of lawful residence was abolished and now, a stateless person born in Norway has the right to acquire Norwegian citizenship after a period of factual, stable residence of three years. This important step came following advocacy efforts made by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), with support provided by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) – including through its #StatelessKids campaign – and using the tools developed by ISI. In particular, the toolkit helped NOAS to quickly identify relevant points of concern that had already been raised by the CRC in its Concluding Observations on other State party reports and use this in its advocacy with the Norway, which will soon be coming up for review again before the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Checklist for identifying issues relating to the child’s right to a nationality
The CRC Toolkit offers a 10-point checklist to guide civil society stakeholders in the assessment of issues, legal gaps and conditions in which statelessness may arise and manifest in countries under review, in order to determine if and how they would engage with the CRC Process. For each of the issues on the checklist, the Toolkit gives a brief description/guiding questions to help identify relevant problems, as well as some examples of relevant recommendations previously issued by the Committee. A much condensed overview of this checklist is reproduced here.
Scale of the problem and related data/statistics
- Is there a large habitually resident stateless population in the country?
20 countries have known non-refugee stateless populations of over 10,000. In many other countries, there are large but unquantified stateless populations.
- Does the country host to a large refugee or irregular migrant population that is stateless or at risk of statelessness?
Forced migration can cause statelessness, and stateless refugees face added vulnerability. Particularly in countries without adequate safeguards against statelessness, statelessness in migration can be inherited by new generations.
- Does the state maintain systematic and disaggregated data on children’s acquisition of nationality, birth registration, statelessness and as relevant, the questions highlighted above?
The legal framework
- Does the country’s legal framework contain discriminatory provisions which arbitrarily deprive nationality or deny access to nationality?
27 countries discriminate against women in their ability to confer nationality to their children. Many countries discriminate in access to nationality on grounds of race, religion, disability etc. The discriminatory implementation of the law can also cause statelessness.
- Does the country’s legal framework have adequate safeguards to protect all children born in the territory (including foundlings) from statelessness?
Some countries have no safeguards to protect against childhood statelessness. Others have partial safeguards, conditional on the fulfilment of unreasonable criteria. Even in countries with full safeguards, implementation can be discriminatory and/or ineffective.
- Are there other legal gaps affecting children’s access to nationality?
In some countries, children born abroad to nationals do not have access to nationality. The law may also not protect against statelessness in the context of adoption or surrogacy, or allow for the deprivation or loss of nationality of children (including as a result of deprivation or loss of their parent’s nationality)
- Is the State party to the most relevant treaties and has it removed any reservations that it made to these treaties?
The 1954 and 1961 Conventions and other core human rights treaties with statelessness relevant provisions including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Rights and Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), are all relevant. States may be party to these treaties but have declared reservations on provisions which relate to the right to a nationality and statelessness.
- Is there universal birth registration, which is free and accessible for all?
The majority of countries have not achieved universal birth registration. Minority, rural, poor, migrant and refugee communities are disproportionately impacted. The lack of birth registration and documentation is not the same as statelessness, but it heightens the risk of statelessness, in particular in a context of forced displacement or where a population’s belonging is challenged.
- Is there access to justice and a right to a remedy?
Statelessness can serve as a barrier to accessing justice, with stateless children being denied legal recourse and a fair remedy for rights violations including the violation of their right to a nationality.
- Do stateless children in the country benefit from the protection and enjoyment of other human rights enshrined in the CRC?
Statelessness can result in denial of (or disadvantage in) accessing a multitude of other fundamental rights including the rights to an identity, education, health, family life, adequate standard of living, freedom of movement and protection from economic exploitation.
Committee engagement on childhood statelessness
In the 23 years of Committee reviews of state party reports (until mid-2016), the Committee issued 126 recommendations on the content of children’s right to acquire a nationality. A further 226 recommendations on measures of implementation that states should take in order to improve the protection of children’s right to acquire a nationality have been made. In total, 89 different states have received relevant recommendations from the Committee.
The Committee has paid the greatest attention in its substantive recommendations to addressing the obligation of states to grant nationality to children who are born stateless in their territory, to ensuring that access to nationality is non-discriminatory and to promoting universal birth registration as a means to help prevent childhood statelessness. The most common implementing measure recommended has been the ratification and application of other relevant international standards, including the two UN statelessness conventions. The Committee has also made recommendations regarding the treatment and rights of stateless children.
Civil Society Submissions to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Institute on statelessness and Inclusion, in collaboration with thematic, regional and national partner organisations, makes regular submissions to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, on the child’s right to acquire a nationality in different countries around the world (see: www.institutesi.org/children). Our joint submissions at various stages of the process and our oral representations to the Committee have contributed towards positive recommendations on the child’s right to a nationality and protection against childhood statelessness being made by the Committee to many of these states.
If the country you work in is coming up before the Committee for review and you are interested in making a joint submission, please contact us via email: email@example.com