Civil registration is the critical act of recording of important events in people’s lives including births, marriages, divorces, adoptions and deaths. It provides individuals with official recognition and documentation, which are necessary to establish legal identity, family relationships and civil status, and generate information for vital statistics, civil registries and population databases.
The registration of life events is essential for individuals to exercise various human, legal, economic, social and political rights and enables access to services, such as health, education and social protection. Some specific examples include seeking employment, participating in democratic processes, transferring property, opening bank accounts, accessing credit and obtaining other forms of identification such as ID cards, passports and driving licenses.
With such consequence, universal civil registration is a fundamental function of public administration and a pillar of good governance. Within a government, civil registration is the responsibility of a number of ministries or departments, including ministries of interior, ministries of justice, ministries of health and national statistical offices.
Vital statistics generated from civil registration significantly contribute to the formulation of effective and efficient evidence-based policy across multiple sectors. Reliable information on births, fertility and deaths enable the calculation and production of timely and accurate population estimates and other demographic and health statistics, which contribute to more effective planning for inclusive and sustainable development, efficient resource allocation and accurate evaluation and monitoring. Compared with other sources of vital statistics, such as surveys and censuses, civil registration is the preferred because it is continuous and complete.
ESCAP offers a comprehensive and broad multilateral platform to promote the prioritization of CRVS as a development issue – which is important because CRVS is such a multidimensional issue.
The ESCAP secretariat is working with member States and a range of development partners to improve CRVS systems for the betterment of rights, governance and data. Some of the specific activities include:
- Raising awareness of the significance of CRVS for inclusive and sustainable development through intergovernmental channels, the organization of high-level events and advocacy activities.
- Working with governments and development partners to conduct rapid and comprehensive assessments of national CRVS systems.
- Building a regional network of CRVS stakeholders.
- Supporting the work of governments and development partners to identify opportunities to align and synergize country-level activities of implementing agencies.
- Disseminating knowledge, tools and resources associated with CRVS.
Positive CRVS developments in Asia and the Pacific since 2012:
In Bangkok during December 2012, ESCAP and WHO co-hosted the High-level Meeting on the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific in collaboration with an Organizing Committee comprised of 18 additional development partners. It was attended by over 230 senior officials from the civil registration, health and statistics sectors of 46 countries and 22 international organizations
- At the High-level Meeting, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Dr Noeleen Heyzer launched the Make Every Life Count regional initiative to improve CRVS in Asia and the Pacific and reached consensus on the Regional Strategic Plan for the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific.
- Days after the High-level Meeting, the Committee on Statistics, at its third session, endorsed the Regional Strategic Plan and strongly recommended that ESCAP convene a regional intergovernmental ministerial meeting on CRVS.
- In March 2013, the High-level Meeting, as an important regional initiative to achieve universal birth registration, was recognized at the global level by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva through its resolution 22/7 entitled, Birth registration and the right of everyone to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
- In April 2013, the WHO and HMN convened the first ever Global Summit on CRVS in Bangkok, in which ESCAP contributed as part of the Organizing Committee. The Summit was attended by over 220 participants from 47 countries 34 international organizations and academic institutions.
- At the 69th session of ESCAP held in April and May 2013, the government of the Philippines submitted a resolution entitled Implementing the Outcome of the High-level Meeting on the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific. Importantly, the resolution called for ESCAP to convene a ministerial meeting in 2014 and to establish a regional steering group for CRVS in Asia and the Pacific. The resolution was adopted by ESCAP with the cosponsorship of the governments of Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Japan and Turkey.