On April 7, 2016, the Center for Global Affairs (CGA) and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) hosted a panel on statelessness in which experts from various human rights organizations addressed the economic and social impacts of the refugee crisis for the next generation. Dr. Vera Jelinek, Divisional Dean of CGA, welcomed attendees with a framing of the current global migration crisis as well as personal anecdotes of her own childhood flight from persecution as a refugee.
Philip Alston, Co-Chair of CHRGJ, moderated the panel which covered diverse topics under the theme of statelessness, including the definition of statelessness (the condition in which no country considers a person a citizen), the effect on stateless people of living in the shadows without freedom of movement, and the issue of statelessness as a structural, global problem, not limited to the current Syrian refugee crisis. The panelists also explored the gender and ethnic dimension of statelessness.
Panelists included Laura Bingham, Legal Officer for the Equality and Inclusion team of the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), who leads OSJI’s projects on the right to citizenship and documentation of identity and antidiscrimination. She also coordinates the team’s litigation work on the right to citizenship and on statelessness before domestic, regional, and international fora. Bingham underscored the need to strengthen documentation mechanisms through regular or consistent use and local capacity-building.
Also a panelist was Catherine Harrington, Campaign Manager for the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, a coalition of UN agencies, international, regional, and local NGOs, academics, and civil society partners, housed within the Women’s Refugee Commission. She previously worked at Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), where she was the Senior Program Officer for Advocacy and Communications. Harrington provided a nuanced view of global citizenship rights discrepancies based on gender, ethnicity, and religion.
The third panelist was Ninette Kelley, the Director of UNHCR’s Liaison Office in New York. She joined UNCHR in 2002 and has served in several senior management positions both at Headquarters and in the field. Kelley emphasized the challenges faced by the international community facing rising numbers of young, stateless people.
Aligned with the topic, CHRGJ and CGA hired Eat Offbeat, a catering company that hires refugees and asylum seekers from around the world to prepare cuisine from their home countries as refreshments for the attendees.