New OSCE and UNHCR handbook aims to help states to address statelessness
VIENNA, 2 March 2017 – Statelessness, a human rights and security issue affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the OSCE region according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is the focus of a new handbook of international standards and good practices launched in Vienna today by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the UNHCR.
UNHCR estimates that 715,671 people within the OSCE area are currently stateless or of undetermined nationality. Worldwide, the numbers are even more staggering, with at least 10 million stateless people. The UNHCR was entrusted by the United Nations General Assembly to identify and protect stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness.
The launch of the Handbook on Statelessness in the OSCE Area: International Standards and Good Practices was hosted by Austria’s 2017 OSCE Chairmanship. The book was jointly developed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) and UNHCR.
OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier underlined that “the OSCE and UNHCR have merged their expertise, knowledge and resources to produce a document to assist OSCE participating States in tackling a serious human rights issue with far-reaching implications for peace and stability in several geographies within the broader OSCE area. This first-of-its-kind handbook for our region will provide invaluable advice and guidance.”
Volker Türk, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, who also attended the launch, recalled that UNHCR and the OSCE had also partnered to produce the OSCE-UNHCR Protection Checklist, a guide which helps OSCE field staff and other actors to identify the protection needs of displaced people. “I am confident that, thanks to the practical guidance it provides, this new handbook will be key in helping to prevent and reduce statelessness in Europe, with a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people. UNHCR is fully committed to join up forces with OSCE and States in the region to put an end to this predicament,” he said.
The handbook highlights the complex implications of statelessness for individuals, states and societies, with good practices and recommendations aiming to increase engagement and progress in addressing this phenomenon by OSCE participating States.
“Leaving the question of statelessness unresolved for decades comes at a high price, both for the individuals concerned and for the states in question; it takes away the potential for state-building and consolidation,” said Henrik Villadsen, Director and Officer-in-Charge at the HCNM, at the launch.
Katarzyna Jarosiewicz-Wargan, First Deputy Director at ODIHR, said that the handbook will support efforts of OSCE participating States to create a functioning identity management infrastructure and improve the situation of Roma and Sinti, including by resolving problems related to their lack of basic documents, such as birth certificates and personal identity documents. “For both areas, this joint handbook gives practical examples of how certain situations can be resolved. ODIHR is looking forward to further work in this direction together with its international and national partners.”
The Handbook on Statelessness in the OSCE Area, International Standards and Good Practices is available online at www.osce.org/handbook/statelessness-in-the-OSCE-area. A Russian translation is to be released later this year.