Central to the issue of statelessness is the concept of ‘functioning citizenship’, which requires an active and mutually-beneficial relationship between the state and the individual. This relationship is essential for the protection and promotion of international human rights. In cases of both de facto and de jure statelessness, however, this robust form of political membership is limited or missing entirely. Expanding on Elizabeth F. Cohen’s concept of ‘semi-citizenship’, this article contends that membership exists along a spectrum and requires not only the granting of formal citizenship, but also attention to the functionality of that relationship. Government-sponsored identities will continue to be important prerequisites for rights protection within the modern ‘society of states’, but truly functioning citizenship requires us to expand our understandings of responsibility and membership. The international community must critically examine the ways that individuals are recognized as worthy of human rights.
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