Belonging is a foundation for people to thrive, reach their potential and be secure in their families, communities and countries. Increasing the full inclusion, participation and belonging of all persons can strengthen local and national economies, lead to higher educational attainment and improve social cohesion and stability. Global and regional crises are threatening to leave millions of people, including children, in the margins. Conflict, and the resulting large-scale displacement, exposes children to risks due to increased family separation, the non-functioning of civil registration systems in conflict affected areas, and difficulties in registering new births and marriages. The relatively recent phenomenon of globalization has also led to increased mobility, migration and mixed movements. As a result, large numbers of people live outside of their country of nationality or possess multiple citizenships and live in more than one country. As a result, children with complex histories, whose parents hold different nationalities, and/or who are born outside the country of their parents’ nationality are increasingly common. In these situations, children may be at risk of not acquiring a nationality at birth due to a conflict in the nationality laws of different countries.
In February 2018, the Ministerial Conference of the League of Arab States adopted the Arab Declaration on Belonging and Legal Identity. The Declaration builds on good practices in the MENA region, recognizing the right of all children to belong and to a legal identity. The Declaration also reaffirms the shared commitment of LAS member States to strengthen women’s nationality rights and gender equality in nationality, and to lead the way in ensuring that everyone belongs. A range of regional instruments, including the Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam, and the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which stipulate that all persons shall have the right to a legal identity and a life of dignity, demonstrate the commitment of the MENA region to the protection of children and families. Additionally, the Sharjah Principles on the Protection of Refugee Children specify that all refugee children should be registered and documented at birth. Capitalizing on these regional developments in MENA, many countries in the region have enacted domestic measures to better protect women, children and families, including in relation to their rights to nationality, documentation and family unity. Notably, significant nationality law reforms have been enacted since the early 2000’s across the region to grant women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis as men, while innovative measures have been taken across the region to facilitate birth registration (described in detail below, in the section on Civil Registration & Birth Registration).
This publication is part of the Arab Leagues’ “I am here” Campaign, which was launched in February 2018 to document and give recognition to the ongoing efforts of all countries in the MENA region undertaking the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Arab Declaration on Belonging and Legal Identity. This publication highlights positive measures that have been undertaken across MENA to ensure that all people are able to enjoy their right to belong and to enjoy a legal identity, highlighting positive developments with regard to historic nationality law reforms, civil documentation, including birth registration, as well as the acquisition of nationality.