The United Nations refugee agency today hailed Panama’s recent decision to accede to two major international treaties on statelessness, a problem which affects up to 12 million people worldwide.
Panama is the first State to accede since the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a drive for this year’s 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness to have more States become parties.
“It is our hope that this accession will encourage more States to follow suit over the coming months,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.
The 1961 convention, which now has 38 State parties, is designed to prevent statelessness from occurring and thereby reduce it over time. It requires that States put in place safeguards in nationality laws by requiring that people cannot renounce their nationality without first having acquired another.
Panama also decided on 3 June to accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which now has 66 parties. The treaty establishes minimum standards of treatment for stateless persons and is designed to ensure that they are not left in legal limbo.
The problem of statelessness occurs for different reasons, according to UNHCR, including discrimination against minority groups in nationality legislation, failure to include all residents in the body of citizens when a State becomes independent and conflicts of laws between States.
The agency stresses that possession of nationality is essential for full participation in society and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of the full range of human rights.