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In the context of implementing the 2023 ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) in Indonesia, one of the activities that will be carried out is a side event workshop discussing ways to advocate for statelessness in Southeast Asia. This workshop will present relevant speakers from the region to host a dialogue discussing ways to support statelessness in the Southeast Asian region which was held on 3 September 2023 at Atmajaya University. This discussion will present three discussion panelists namely Subin Mulmi from Nationality for All (NFA), Suyheang Kry from Women Peace Maker (WPM), and Angga Reynaldy from SUAKA. Apart from that, there will also be responders, namely H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesia Representative of AICHR and Bina Ramanand from Family Frontiers Malaysia.

The session opened by Subin Mulmi, the Executive Director Nationality for All which is an organisation registered in Australia but based in Nepal. He presented their comprehensive research on statelessness condition in some countries representing Southeast Asia which found that ASEAN has included rights to nationality in its charter, specifically in Article 181 . There are at least 4.2 million recorded and reported statelessness around the world. However, the total estimated number reaches 15 million. This means there are more undocumented and unreported statelessness in this world.

The second speaker is Suhyeang KRY from Women Peace Maker Cambodia presenting about Impacts of Legal Identity Issues on Minority Women and Girls Rights. Their study is based on the political turmoil in the region (genocide and war conflict with Vietnam) between the 1970s and 1980s and its impact on the contemporary situation in Cambodia, especially along the Mekong rivers and the border area. Their study found that women and girls from the minority group of Vietnamese-Cambodian experience livelihood precarity due to financial struggle and ethnicity-based discrimination and bullying at school and are easily targeted by the government due to the absence of ID card.

Angga Reynaldy from SUAKA presented their study collaborating with Human Rights Working Group and VOICE in responding to the lack of literature on risk of statelessness in Indonesia. This study was drawn as a baseline study with the objective to map the situations of the research’s subject as statelessness. Subject of the study includes: Rohingya refugees, double rejected asylum Seekers, mixed marriage partner, mixed marriage with children without documentation. Some of the key findings includes limitation of rights such as inability to register marriage and process divorce; inability to register birth of children; barrier to access adequate resources and the barrier is exacerbated during COVID-19 pandemic. The study proposed three key recommendations: strengthening legal protection framework, connecting policies that empower refugees and collaboration of multistakeholders.

Based on those discussion, H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum as Indonesia Rep for AICHR responded that ASEAN doesn’t necessarily use the terminology ‘statelessness’, although several efforts have been taken place to mainstream the use and issue of ‘statelessness’ in ASEAN. The term that is used by ASEAN is ‘the lack of legal identity’, and a baseline research approved by all ASEAN state members can be found in Legal Identity of All Women and Children in ASEAN: A Regional Synthesis, which is available online at www.asean.org. The approved research indicates what is politically accepted by ASEAN member states and can be treated as a baseline study to advocate similar issues. Second responder, Bina Ramanand from Malaysian Mothers for Gendel Equal Citizenship Rights emphasises that even when the advocacy includes women and children as the group impacted by the discriminating migrant policy, there is still a lot of pullbacks from the government. Some of the good practices shared include establishing a core group (working group), keeping the community informed, building trust and relationships, encouraging diverse talents and skills, finding confidence in the community, and providing individualised support.

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