The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

Documentation of identity: Implications for Citizenship and Participation

Most documentation of identity systems in place today (with a few notable exceptions such as India) document only citizens. Before the advent of widespread identity cards, individuals habitually resident in a country were generally assumed to be citizens, even in the absence of official documentation. The introduction of identity cards, closely linked with requirements to present such cards to obtain services, enter into private contracts such as employment, purchase a property, or leasing, and to exercise rights such as voting, has shifted this assumptions. Individuals without documentation of identity are now often treated as, if not assumed to be, non-citizens. This presents a fundamental human rights issue. In principle, individuals should not be deprived of citizenship without due process of law (generally understood as an individualized, judicial determination of their nationality). In practice, the rapid rollout of requirements for documentation, paired with the inevitable shortcomings of state bureaucracies, means that individuals are being effectively deprived of their citizenship rights. What are the implications for documentation of identity schemes? How must schemes be structured so as to protect individuals’ right to citizenship and to due process?

Event reference: 
The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity