Countries call for urgent action to improve civil registration and vital statistics

A regional gathering of experts in civil registration and vital statistics of 17 ESCAP member states organized by ESCAP and WHO in collaboration with ADB and UNDP has ended with a loud call from countries for urgent action to increase coverage and completeness of registration and improve quality of data from the registration of vital events.

The regional meeting, held from 23 to 25 June 2010 at ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok, brought together, for the first time, representatives from all the three sectors involved in civil registration and vital statistics – health, statistics and the office of the civil registrar. The opportunity to share experiences, explore common challenges and discuss potential solutions was welcomed by all who participated.

The experts stressed the central role of civil registration for establishing the rights and privileges of individuals and enabling the progressive realization of those rights. Civil registration and vital statistics systems provide the foundation for key population and mortality indicators, such as those on child mortality and maternal mortality. Without reliable and timely vital statistics, policy and decision-makers will not have sound information needed for development planning and monitoring of progress towards national and internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Countries participating in this meeting conducted a self-assessment of their current systems with results indicating that weak institutional capacity and lack of coordination are among the main issues. Countries stressed that these are, in part, due to a lack of high-level political commitment and limited resource allocation for civil registration and vital statistics. The potential for new information and communication technologies to improve the efficiency of data collection, processing and sharing of results, has yet to be realized by many countries.

In an outcome statement adopted at the close of the meeting, participants have called upon national governments, international organizations and other development partners to increase their support to strengthen civil registration and vital statistics systems. ESCAP has been requested to facilitate the establishment of a regional forum aimed at providing such support through the ongoing exchange of experiences and development of strategies to address common issues. ESCAP has also been asked to convene a high-level regional meeting of national decision-makers to raise awareness and increase commitment to improving civil registration and vital statistics. This statement will be referred to the ESCAP Committee on Statistics at its Second Session in December 2010.

For further information please contact: Ms. Haishan Fu Chief Statistics Division United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Email: fuh@un.org