Nationality and Statelessness

Laura van Waas

in International Law

ISBN: 9780199796953
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Nationality and Statelessness

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Nationality is the legal bond between a person and a state. It denotes membership and gives rise to both rights and duties on the part of the individual and the state concerned. This legal bond is also commonly referred to as “citizenship,” and in most writing on the subject, “nationality” and “citizenship” are used as interchangeable synonyms. However, it is important to note that at the domestic level, citizenship and nationality may constitute distinct legal statuses. In addition, the terms “national” and “nationality” are used in some international legal contexts and related writing to describe membership of a “nation” in the sense of a particular cultural, ethnic, or historic community. Each state’s municipal law dictates on whom nationality shall be conferred. The two principal doctrines for the attribution of nationality are jus soli (nationality based on birth on state soil) and jus sanguinis (nationality based on descent from a national). A third common ground for the attribution of nationality is long-term residence, which can open the door to naturalization. It is also possible for a person to renounce, lose, change, or be deprived of his or her nationality under certain circumstances. International law recognizes, in principle, the freedom of states to regulate access to nationality as an exercise of sovereignty. However, some limits to this freedom may be imposed under international customary and treaty law. A stateless person is someone who is not considered a national by any state under the operation of its law. Statelessness is an anomalous situation, in 2011 affecting an estimated 12 million people worldwide. There are numerous causes, including a conflict of nationality laws and arbitrary deprivation of nationality. Another common cause of statelessness is the inadequate or uncoordinated regulation of nationality in the context of state succession. Statelessness has a detrimental effect on individuals, families, and communities. The lack of a nationality can severely obstruct the enjoyment of a wide range of rights and services, contributing to poverty and marginalization, and even leading to forced displacement. Although human rights law provides for the right to a nationality, and two international treaties were adopted specifically with a view to addressing statelessness, over the years the issues of nationality and statelessness have received inconsistent attention from the international community and from scholars. Therefore, as compared to other areas of international law, there are large gaps in the literature on these subjects. However, in recent years the interest in statelessness and the problems associated with the regulation of nationality has been growing steadily, and this has heralded many new and insightful publications.

Article.  12258 words. 

Subjects: International Law ; International Courts and Tribunals ; Private International Law and Conflict of Laws ; Public International Law

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