Civil society engagement key to achieving universal civil registration in Asia-Pacific

Participants at the Civil Society Forum for CRVS in Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand. 27 August 2014
Photo Credit: Suwat Chancharoensuk

Members of national and international civil society groups put forth their collective voice in Bangkok today to support universal registration of births, deaths and marriages in the region, ahead of the Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific in November.

Civil registration and vital statistics is the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events of the population in accordance with the law. It is an assurance that no life goes undocumented or unrecognized.

The groups were brought together at a Civil Society Forum this week by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in partnership with Plan International and World Vision International to develop a consolidated civil society statement that will be delivered at the Ministerial Conference, and to agree on joint actions to implement the declaration and regional action framework.

“Reliable vital statistics enable governments, civil society organizations, development organizations and the private sector to understand emerging trends and challenges of society, and to make informed decisions that better respond to the needs of people,” said Mr. Anis Chowdhury, upcoming Director of ESCAP’s Statistics Division.

“More importantly, registration of such events as birth, deaths and marriages is part of the social compact that a citizen has with the country and should be treated as a fundamental citizenship right,” emphasized Mr. Chowdhury. “CRVS has both intrinsic and instrumental values.”

Mr. Haider Yaqub, Plan International’s Deputy Regional Director in Asia said, “To be registered at birth is a fundamental right of all children, so that they can grow up able to prove their age and identity.

“Effective and responsive systems for the recording of all life events - whether births, deaths or marriages - give governments the best source of information about their populations. With this information, they can work to ensure that children’s rights are protected from the day they are born to the day they die,” added Mr. Yaqub.

“Universal registration helps get everyone in the picture and breaks down barriers to an increasingly wide range of services and opportunities.”

Civil society engagement is critical in ensuring effective implementation of civil registration and vital statistics in every country. These groups play an important role in raising awareness of the usefulness of universal and timely civil registration in populations and in advocating for efficient CRVS systems to relevant policy makers. They are also advocates of the Asian and Pacific CRVS Decade who can support governments and international organizations in identifying disparities in getting access to registration services especially for underprivileged, minority and untapped groups.

“The role of the civil society is pivotal, especially in creating awareness among citizens about the importance of registration systems to enable them to establish their legal identity,” said Mr. Patrick Canagasingham, Senior Director for Operations, World Vision International, East Asia Region. “By scaling up best practices and key learning from successful birth registration programs implemented by civil society, we can significantly contribute to address the challenges faced by governments in reaching the 100 per cent target of ensuring birth registration coverage.”

The Ministerial Conference will be held from 24 to 28 November 2014 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. The ESCAP-convened conference is co-organised with UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, UNFPA, WHO, ADB and Plan International. An expected outcome is an Asian and Pacific CRVS Decade for 2015-2024 will be declared.

For more information about the Ministerial Conference on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific, please visit:
http://www.unescap.org/events/ministerial-conference-civil-registration-and-vital-statistics-asia-and-pacific