Nov 22, 2018

Minority Empowerment : A Human Rights Approach to Counter Statelessness

On the occasion of the 11th session of the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues, the UNPO is organising a side event challenging issues of statelessness through minority empowerment. With the exceptional opportunity of bringing speakers together from across the world, the side event will discuss the interconnection of statelessness and systems of discrimination, while identifying best practices of minority empowerment as a constructive response.


Minority Empowerment :
A Human Rights Approach to Counter Statelessness
29 November 2018,
Room XXIII, Palais des Nations,
Geneva, Switzerland


Distinct racial, ethnic, historical, cultural or religious identities make minorities common targets for persecution and discrimination, creating everything from marginalisation and exclusion to violence. This explains why minorities are at higher risk of being victims of statelessness. Additionally, the discriminatory structures and practices often under-privileging minorities result in disproportionate suffering from the consequences of statelessness. However, severe and systematic structures of discrimination might not necessarily lead to persecution and de jure statelessness. Many minorities are forced to live under discriminatory systems leaving them insufficiently politically, economically and culturally represented. They are often left marginalised, disempowered and underrepresented, with limited or no access to public services and political participation. This is what the Final Act of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons defines as de facto statelessness. It is when the contracting state “…recognizes as valid the reasons for which a person has renounced the protection of the State of which he is a national”. These are often minority groups who have experienced persecution and/or systematic discrimination, leaving them unrepresented and unprotected, in the countries they live in, thus effectively being unable to make practical use of their nationality and enjoying their human rights.

Empowering minorities is a strategy of countering statelessness. Securing the human rights of minorities is an approach which empowers the people in focus, securing their agency and dignity. There are many forms and systems of discrimination leading to statelessness, and many similarities and traits can be identified throughout the situations of the world’s minorities. Understanding the interconnection of systematic discrimination and statelessness is therefore essential in order to secure the human rights of minorities. In this perspective, this side-event to the 11th Forum on Minority Issues will gather activists and representatives from different minorities from around the world to offer a first-hand opportunity to understand the different contexts and challenges faced by their communities. Looking at the interconnection of statelessness and structural discrimination will provide a more holistic understanding of systematic human rights violations towards minorities worldwide.

The UNPO Side Event to the Minority Forum will be attended and led by activists and representatives from several minority groups from around the world. A representation of diverse situations, from both geographical and human rights standpoints, will allow the issue of minority rights, statelessness and discrimination to be addressed and interpreted from several angles. It will allow for a better understanding of the plurality of systematic discrimination and human rights violations and how it is contributing to de facto and de jure statelessness. The side event will be an open and inclusive platform for dialogue and sharing of activities and best practices in order to inspire and learn from each other. The representatives and activists will be the protagonists of the side event, whereas UNPO will function as facilitator.

The side event is public and may therefore be attended by all Permanent Missions, NGOs and other civil society representatives, UN Staff and other participants with access to Palais des Nations.



Introductory remarks by UNPO (5 minutes)

Part 1: Identifying the root causes of statelessness (45 minutes)

  • Understanding the context;
  • Understanding discrimination;
  • Defining the causes

Part 2: Identifying constructive responses to statelessness (45 minutes)

  • Sharing experiences, activities, strategies, challenges, and best practices;
  • Defining the role of INGs, NGOs and states

Questions and answers (25 minutes)