IWB at the ENS conference ‘None of Europe’s Children should be Stateless’
On the 2nd and 3rd June, IWB was in Budapest to attend a conference organized by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS). The conference represented an important step of the campaign ‘None of Europe’s Children should be Stateless’. 100 participants from over 30 countries got together with the goal of ending childhood statelessness in Europe. (more about the campaign here: http://www.statelessness.eu/communications/campaigns/none-europes-children-should-be-stateless).
Lawyers, academics, government officials, journalists, NGOs, UN representatives as well as representatives from other agencies engaged in a passionate and fruitful debate on the subject. Each panel and each individual speaker gave us a different angle from which to analyse the complex and challenging issue of childhood statelessness, with one common assumption: having a nationality is a fundamental right of every child.
No child chooses to be stateless. Children always have a connection with at least one country, the one where they were born and grew up, and the one where their parents are from. Each country has its own rules to confer nationality, but as long as European states will not ensure the right to acquire citizenship to every child born in Europe or to European parents there will continue to be stateless children in Europe. Lacking a nationality has many consequences on the lives of children, like limited or no access to basic rights like education, housing or health care, as well as vulnerability to poverty, detention or exploitation.
It was pointed out during the conference that preventing children from becoming stateless is not an impossible goal to achieve. This could be done by introducing safeguards in nationality laws, granting the nationality of a certain country to all children born there and that would otherwise be stateless. Unfortunately, little attention has been given to the subject until now, and it is necessary to raise the political will to properly address the issue in Europe. MEP Jean Lambert claimed that the moment has come to push the agenda forward – and I felt this purpose has strongly and positively lead the whole event.
There were two things I particularly appreciated about this conference, other than learning more about stateless children and the many sides to this issue. Firstly, the attention dedicated to concrete actions, and the possible next steps to take in order to tackle the many issues raised during various discussions. Each panel did not just present a problem, but encouraged an active debate on how to find answers and durable solutions. Secondly, being surrounded by experts whose intention was not to keep the discussion behind closed doors, but also to bring it outside of the room and into practice. Many speakers have indeed plead the importance of engaging the public, mobilising young people and minors themselves, as well as creating the political space to raise awareness and address childhood statelessness in more effective ways.
The analysis of countries’ case studies proved that together with good practices – that need more solid and wide implementation, many challenges to end childhood statelessness in Europe lie ahead. The participation and the commitment so many people have shown for this 2-days conference is the proof that there is a strong will to face these challenges together.
You can read the conference Action Statement here:
Check out some photos from the conference here: