Is a Person Without an Identity Still a Person?

The notion of identity is at the core of what it is to be human, and the converse is also true: it is not possible to feel completely human if one does not wield at least a minimal sense of identity. Yet identity is a complex idea and is forged several layers. It is in part endogenous, driven by one’s sense of the world; and in part exogenous, as it is conferred onto one by the world. Most people in the modern world have hybrid and multilayered identities that are fluid and malleable, but they do consist of certain core pillars which differ from person to person. In the sense of its endogenously conferred aspect, a persons identity can be moral (legitimised by a religious institution), legal (legitimised by a government and reinforced through documentation such as birth certificates and passports), and financial (legitimized by the financial system and reinforced through access to that system via accounts). Taqanu is dedicated to the reinforcement of that financial identity among people who have either lost that identity or are unable to re-establish it.

When people are involuntarily displaced by exogenous factors such as conflict or strife, particularly when their displacement is across national boundaries, they often find their identities are de-legitimized and they are in urgent of re-establishing these. Their moral identity may be denigrated if their new host locations are hostile to their former affiliation; their legal identity may be unrecognized if they cannot reinforce it through legal evidence such as passports (and even then warring jurisdictions might refuse to recognize these documents); and their financial identities are almost certainly demolished. Why? Because compared to moral and legal identities, which are part of a wider international system that is far more unified, the financial systems of countries are far more fragmented, local, and nontransferable. Yet the financial identity is the one with the most immediacy for victims of strife, because it is the only way for them to begin a process of engagement with local economic systems.

Yet financial identity is often overlooked by policymakers when considering the integration of newly arrived groups fleeing strife. They may tend to see financial identity as a second-order priority subsequent to the provision of basic needs and to a legal status. Yet a financial status is of paramount importance for wayfaring victims of conflict.

Taqanu is unequivocally mindful of this, and is therefore committed to helping the victims of strife establish their financial identity and their financial personhood. It aims to help humans be treated as humans, and focuses on the economic lens that is premised on financial legitimacy through identification.  A person without identity is still a person, and helping such persons to engage in economic life constitutes a core priority for the work that Taqanu does.

 - Usman W. Chohan -

image: The Son of a Man - Magritte