Ambassador Bathsheba Crocker’s Remarks at the Global Summit on Gender Equality in Nationality Laws
Geneva Ecumenical Center, June 13, 2023
Excellencies, Esteemed colleagues.
Thank you to the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, and our partners at UNHCR, UNICEF, and UN Women for convening this important summit.
I am honored to be with you today, representing the United States, a nation that has long championed women’s rights, including those related to nationality.
To be clear: women’s equal nationality rights aren’t just a corner of democracy—they’re the cornerstone, the heart. As Hannah Arendt put it, “Citizenship is the right to have rights.”
Statelessness is not an abstract concern; it has profound and often lifelong impacts. It can prevent someone from obtaining identity documentation, block access to public services like education and health care, and create barriers to employment and property rights. It restricts an individual’s ability to move freely, tears families apart, and pushes people to live in the precarious margins of society.
Thankfully, we can do more than just analyze statelessness as a problem. With political will, we can overcome it.
For our part, the United States has advocated for women’s equal nationality rights in numerous forums—from the UN Human Rights Council to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. In 2019, we pledged at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness to champion law reforms in those countries with nationality laws that discriminate against women. Since our 2019 pledge, we have dedicated some $3.7 million to support the hard work and coordinated advocacy that has driven meaningful progress toward ending statelessness around the world.
In the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council, the United States will put forward a resolution—together with Australia, Colombia, Mexico, and Slovakia—aimed at ending arbitrary or unlawful discrimination in nationality laws, another example of our dedication to solutions to end statelessness.
We are the largest single donor to UNHCR, the UN body mandated to combat statelessness, and we actively support the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness through our leadership of the friends group and through diplomatic advocacy in Geneva and further afield.
But of course statelessness won’t be solved through the actions of any one of us alone. We applaud and back the powerful work done by community-led movements and civil society organizations that tirelessly advocate for families and children and spearhead change.
And there has been progress. A decade ago, 30 countries denied women the right to confer citizenship to their children on an equal basis with men. Today, that number is down 25. That is progress but there’s still much more to do.
Today’s Summit forces us to confront the costs of discrimination against women in nationality laws, a phenomenon that impedes progress for entire societies. It is an issue that cuts across themes, from women’s rights and access to full and equal participation in governance, to economic development, human trafficking, and our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
When we deny women the ability to pass their nationality on equal terms with men, we risk denying children birth registration and their right to a nationality. Lack of documentation hinders children’s ability to acquire a legal identity, access services and education, and later to participate fully and equally in political and economic life as adults.
Statelessness and disenfranchisement, deeply rooted in gender discrimination, are significant drivers of inequality. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to tackle these drivers head-on, as recognized by SDG 16’s call for providing legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030, an essential element for progress on several other SDGs.
The United States stands with you in this great effort to end statelessness and discrimination against women in nationality laws.
I thank you all—the dedicated participants here today—for your relentless efforts in this monumental task. Together, we will make a difference. Together, we can ensure that every person, regardless of gender, has a nationality. Together, we will end statelessness. Thank you.