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Global citizenship law trends

In a recent Delmi-GLOBALCIT Policy Brief entitled How Citizenship Laws Differ: A Global Comparison, the two partners ‘have calculated 12 indicators measuring how inclusive provisions in citizenship laws are in 175 states, how much scope they leave to individual choice, and whether they meet basic standards of non-discrimination and the rule of law’. Additionally, the report uses UNICEF data on birth registration to assess whether persons who have a claim to birthright citizenship can actually obtain it. We have seen in a previous post that the importance of birth registration for access to nationality can hardly be underestimated in Africa, given the relatively poor African Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System, but the problem is also considerable in Latin America and Asia.

A number of points from the report, which is concise and not overly technical, are worth highlighting. Apart from the Americas, where ius soli is generally still awarded unconditionally, the authors note that most other countries have introduced various eligibility conditions. As for ius sanguinis, a substantial number of countries (ranging between 62% in Africa and 30% in Asia) allow nationality to be passed on across generations, thereby potentially creating large diaspora populations.

The report also recalls that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. At least 13% of the countries worldwide violate this right by preventing their citizens from changing their nationality based on a doctrine of ‘perpetual allegiance’. As for naturalisation, then, in 42% of states the voluntary acquisition of another citizenship leads to the withdrawal of the original citizenship.

The report ends with a number of policy recommendations on different topics. It calls for abolishing persisting forms of discrimination in nationality law and urges ‘organisations such as the African Union, UNASUR and ASEAN initiate intergovernmental processes [to aim] for regional conventions on nationality, similar to the European Convention on Nationality adopted by the Council of Europe in 1997’. We have seen that steps are indeed taken in this direction in Africa and that there is talk of a South American citizenship within regional organisations in the Americas. Noteworthy initiatives have so far been lacking within ASEAN. Finally, the authors feel that ‘democratic states must aim at higher standards than minimum human rights guarantees’ and therefore plead for the introduction of conditional forms of ius soli or stronger entitlements to naturalisation as well as more lenient naturalisation requirements.

Author: Dr. Olivier Vonk

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