Statelessness and the Role of National Human Rights Institutions

25 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2013

See all articles by Laura van Waas

Laura van Waas

Tilburg Law School

Monica Neal

Statelessness Programme - Tilburg Law School

Date Written: November 18, 2013


Statelessness is a global human rights problem that affects more than 10 million people today. The very existence of statelessness is at odds with a fundamental human rights norm: the right of everyone to a nationality. But the link between statelessness and human rights goes deeper than this because stateless people are extremely vulnerable to further, cumulative human rights violations. Despite the significance of statelessness as a human rights issue, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – whose Office is mandated by the General Assembly to help states to respond to statelessness – recently observed that it is “one of the most forgotten areas of the global human rights agenda”. However, over the last few years in particular, there has been a considerable and irrefutable increase in interest in statelessness from a wide range of stakeholders – including intergovernmental organisations, national governments, global and regional human rights supervisory bodies, NGOs, legal practitioners and academics. This study seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the current engagement of human rights actors on statelessness. More specifically, it explores the following question: To what extent are National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) engaged in the issue of statelessness and what does this engagement consist of? The report identifies areas of common interest in the work of NHRIs on statelessness and presents a number of examples of concrete activities undertaken by NHRIs in this area to date. With a view to encouraging and facilitating more effective engagement by NHRIs on statelessness, the report also reflects on opportunities for supporting and perhaps expanding the role of NHRIs in tackling statelessness.

Keywords: Statelessness, right to nationality, citizenship, National Human Rights Institutions, NHRIs, human rights

Suggested Citation

van Waas, Laura and Neal, Monica, Statelessness and the Role of National Human Rights Institutions (November 18, 2013). Tilburg Law School Research Paper No. 022/2013. Available at SSRN: or

Monica Neal

Statelessness Programme - Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE

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