Inclusive and non-discriminative approach needed for citizenship

9 Nov 2010

Inclusive and non-discriminative approach needed for citizenship

9 November, 2010 – An inclusive approach to discussions about citizenship was endorsed at a two-day symposium on citizenship issues held in Khartoum on 6-7 November.

At the symposium's closing session, Erika Feller of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told participants in the symposium "to hasten work and redouble efforts to settle outstanding issues" of citizenship and nationality facing Sudan.

The UNHCR official encouraged all parties "to hold discussions on citizenship with an inclusive approach." She emphasized that procedures related to acquiring citizenship should be simple for interested parties to enable them to understand and participate in the process.

The symposium examined various approaches to citizenship and stressed issues of particular interest to vulnerable groups like nomads, children and communities living along country borders.

non-discriminatory criteria are needed to resolve questions related to dual citizenship, said Ms. Feller, an assistant high commissioner of UNHCR.

Responding to a journalist's question as to whether citizenship issues should be decided before Southern Sudan's self-determination referendum scheduled for 9 January, the UNHCR official said it was advisable to begin discussions as soon as possible. "The longer you leave the issue of citizenship (unresolved), the more complicated it becomes," she added.

"It is the two governments' (Government of Sudan and Government of Southern Sudan) responsibility to provide security to people residing on their terrain," said Ms. Feller, referring to the protection of citizens in contentious areas of the country.

The United Nations had been asked by the Sudanese government to provide technical advice on citizenship and nationality issues. To that end, UNHCR will provide its expertise and experience, Ms. Feller said.

A working group on citizenship bringing together the National Congress Party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the United Nations had already met once, she noted, and was developing its terms of reference.

Organized by UNHCR and UNMIS at the Salam Al Rotana hotel in Khartoum, the symposium was attended by Sudanese academia and the civil society. Participants posed questions about the kinds of documents needed to acquire citizenship, issues of statelessness, and the importance of durable solutions for internally displaced persons who wish to return to their places of origin.