The Right to nationality

About the right of every child to a nationality

Nationality is an important aspect of a child's identity and serves as a 'gateway' right, facilitating children's access to and enjoyment of their other human rights. Statelessness is never in a child’s best interests and international law protects the right of every child to acquire a nationality. Addressing childhood statelessness by ensuring the right of every child to a nationality is central to any holistic approach to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of child rights.

Preventing childhood statelessness is also an important measure in halting the spread of statelessness in general. The greatest source of new cases of statelessness in any given year is the denial of the child’s right to a nationality, in particular through the inheritance of statelessness from parent to child. Worldwide, at present, over 70,000 children are born stateless every year.

In this section of the toolkit, you can learn more about the causes and impact of childhood statelessness, why the Convention on the Rights of the Child is such a powerful tool in addressing this issue, what key principles inform the right of every child to a nationality and what other international law standards help to prevent childhood statelessness.

To find out how statelessness affects children, hear about the experiences of one stateless girl, born to Cuban parents in South Africa but not considered a national by either country. The below video was produced by Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO which is working to address statelessness in South Africa and which also published a short booklet of case studies on Childhood Statelessness in South Africa.