The Right to a Nationality: Women and Children
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 20th Session
(Note: The Resolution Passed by Consensus)
Thank you, Madame President.
I am pleased to introduce this resolution on “The Right to a Nationality: Women and Children” on behalf of the United States, Botswana, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Slovakia and Turkey. We would also like to thank the many delegations that engaged constructively with us on this text.
This resolution is aimed at addressing “the right to a nationality,” a human right which is enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but has long been under-recognized.
As many as 12 million people around the world are stateless. Without recognition as citizens by any government, stateless persons often lack access to legal employment, birth registration, marriage and property ownership, and face travel restrictions, all of which can increase the risk of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking in persons.
Specifically, this resolution focuses on the issues of protecting both a woman’s and a child’s right to a nationality, with the goal of reducing statelessness. The equal right to a nationality for women, including the ability to acquire and retain nationality and, importantly, confer it to their children, is important, as, without that, women and children are more likely to become stateless and vulnerable to serious harm.
While recognizing the right of each State to determine by law who its nationals are, consistent with the State’s obligations under international law, the resolution urges States to refrain from enacting or maintaining discriminatory nationality legislation and to reform nationality laws that discriminate against women – consistent with Article 2 of the UDHR, which provides that everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction on the basis of sex, as well as other human rights instruments. In this regard, we in the United States recall our own history of seeking to achieve equal nationality rights for women.
The resolution also welcomes the increased efforts of UNHCR to prevent and reduce statelessness among women and children, particularly in light of last year’s 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and encourages special procedures and specialized agencies and invites treaty bodies to take steps to address and highlight the right to a nationality.
Finally, the resolution reiterates the call, made in Resolution 19/9 at the last session of the Council, to States to ensure free birth registration for every child, including free or low fee late birth registration.
On behalf of the United States let me just say, that this issue is of great importance to our foreign policy. The U.S. Secretary of State has launched an initiative to promote women’s equal right to nationality, which emphasizes that women’s rights are human rights, and echoes the Beijing Platform for Action.
Thank you, Madame President.