You are reading: RSO-led panel at World Conference on Statelessness highlights importance of Legal Identity for All and Inclusive Civil Registration RSO-led panel at World Conference on Statelessness highlights importance of Legal Identity for All and Inclusive Civil Registration
19 April 2024 | Event
RSO-led panel at World Conference on Statelessness highlights importance of Legal Identity for All and Inclusive Civil Registration

Without legal identity and documentation—such as birth certificates or travel documents—stateless individuals often have no choice but to undertake unsafe and irregular migration journeys should they wish to travel. To bring attention to the plight of stateless individuals, the World Conference on Statelessness, held over 26-29 February in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, underlined the challenges faced by state and non-state actors and the need for ongoing and comprehensive efforts to ensure every person enjoys the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. 

The World Conference on Statelessness brought together over 400 individuals including government representatives, civil society, development partners, and international organisations committed to understanding and addressing the complex issues surrounding statelessness. As part of the conference, the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process (RSO) led a panel on “Legal Identity for All.”    

Statelessness is defined as the predicament of individuals not recognised as a national by any state under its laws. In 2022, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported 4.4 million as officially stateless worldwide.1 However, other estimates suggest that more than 10 million people may be stateless around the world with over 40 percent of individuals in Asia.2 Given these staggering numbers, the World Conference on Statelessness served as a much-needed platform for knowledge sharing and collaborative efforts towards ending this global crisis.  

The importance of legal identity

The panel was moderated by Devmi Dampella— Programme Manager (Irregular Migration and Regional Priorities) at the RSO. It featured Romain Santon— Regional Deputy Director for Asia and the Pacific at Vital Strategies, and Jonathan Marskell—Senior Digital Development Specialist at the World Bank who spoke of legal identity as crucial to access public health services and the opportunity for stakeholders to adopt an economic lens when considering legal identity issues, respectively. The panel also featured Vy Tran, Ph.D. candidate at Universiteit van Amsterdam, who shared her insights on the conduciveness of Indicator 16.9 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to capture the provision of legal documentation to all.  

Christoph Sperfeldt, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University Australia discussed the use of digital registration and identification systems to provide legal documentation for hard-to-reach and marginalised communities. Indu Tuladhar, Executive Chair of the Himal Innovative Development Research Nepal, shed light on the gendered perspectives and practical challenges surrounding the enforcement of legal frameworks related to citizenship rights in Nepal.  

The panellists highlighted that legal identity allows stateless individuals to access basic services, exercise their rights, and receive protection. With perspectives from various sectors, including academia, international organisations, and NGOs, the conversation around the provision of legal identity for all provided a comprehensive overview on the different aspects and impacts related to the need for legal identity and processes that are inclusive.

Supporting civil registration in the Bali Process Region

Civil registration and vital statistics systems contribute to the legal recognition of individuals within a population by accurately recording vital events such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces and provide essential documentation such as birth certificates, which serve as legal proof of identity and age. The RSO seeks to support Bali Process Member States to achieve their commitments made in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.9, which aims to provide legal identity for all by 2030 and address gaps in civil registration systems affecting marginalised communities. To support this, the Bali Process Toolkit for Inclusive Civil Registration serves as a key resource for member states, offering a range of tools to undertake inequality assessments to identify exclusions in civil registrations systems can be accessed here. 

Devmi reflected, “We need to acknowledge a person’s right to a legal identity, and that systems and processes need to be improved to address inequalities. For as long as communities are excluded from national civil registration systems issues, surrounding a lack of legal identity will continue. Irregular migration will continue.” 

As the World Conference on Statelessness concluded, the conversation around statelessness and the importance of legal identity continues. Looking ahead, the RSO will continue to advocate for the improvement of national civil registration systems with Bali Process members and looks forward to being part of the conversation around how collective commitment of governments, civil societies, and international organisations remains crucial in providing opportunities and protection for stateless individuals.