Sustainable development and statelessness

The Sustainable Development Agenda, which world leaders agreed in September 2015, sets out an ambitious global commitment to achieve a wide range of development targets by 2030. The Agenda places emphasis on leaving no one behind, and reaching the furthest behind first.

In many contexts, the stateless are among the ‘furthest behind’. This is because statelessness places people in situations of extreme vulnerability, as nationality often acts as a key to unlock access to basic rights. Stateless populations can also be invisible in population data and other tools that help governments to plan for development work and the delivery of services, such that they may be left out of policy planning. Furthermore, the link between statelessness and discrimination is often inextricable – with statelessness being a consequence of discriminatory law, policy and practice, and the stateless being subject to further discrimination. Therefore, the barriers to accessing socio-economic rights are not merely practical, they are often political, with stateless persons being targeted for exclusion. Once denied enjoyment of socio-economic rights and inclusion within development activities, stateless persons are more likely to face barriers to accessing justice. This enhances the likelihood of inter-generational statelessness, which leads to further disadvantage and exclusion, as well as the normalisation of, and therefore tolerance towards, statelessness in society.

For all these reasons statelessness must be addressed in order to achieve sustainable development and equality for all. The Sustainable Development Agenda, with its emphasis on issues such as access to education, healthcare, eradication of poverty, birth registration and legal identity (among other issues), provides a useful framework through which to strengthen the quality of life of the stateless and ultimately end statelessness. Therefore, the Institute continues to work on statelessness and sustainable development, promoting a human rights based approach to development, which is truly inclusive of the stateless.

To this end, the Institute has been involved in global discussions around ‘legal identity’ at meetings in New York and The Hague (both in 2015), and convened an expert roundtable on statelessness, human rights and the sustainable development agenda in February 2017. A working background paper produced by the Institute for discussion at the February 2017 Roundtable, sets out some of the Institute’s thinking on this issue.

Later in 2017, the Institute will publish a series of short reports on statelessness and sustainable development. In the meantime, to learn more about some of the issues, read the chapter about childhood statelessness and the sustainable development agenda in our World's Stateless report 2017.