ESCAP, UNFPA and Plan International call for improved civil registration to advance rights and governance in Asia and the Pacific

ESCAP, UNFPA and Plan International call for improved civil registration to advance rights and governance in Asia and the Pacific. UN Photo/ Nayan Tara.

Asia-Pacific countries must prioritise the improvement of civil registration to allow their people to achieve equal access to education, healthcare and social protection, and to effectively monitor and plan development, said UN agencies and Plan International at a high-level panel held during a ministerial conference on population and development.

It is estimated that about half the children under-five in Asia and the Pacific are not registered. Some countries in Asia and the Pacific register fewer than one in 10 children. Globally, three-quarters of deaths are either not registered or incorrectly certified.

“When vital events in people’s lives – such as birth, marriage and death - are not officially registered, people are deprived of their rights, denied access to social supports and inequality is exacerbated," said Kate Gilmore, Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. "Failure to establish fair and inclusive processes for civil registration is leaving millions without an official identity.”

“Civil registration is essential to protect human rights and plays a key role in sustainable development,” she added. “By enabling high-quality vital statistics, civil registration promotes understanding of people’s needs, enhances development planning and supports evidence-based monitoring of inclusive social and economic progress.”

“People who do not have their life events registered, from birth to death, are often among the poorest and most marginalised in society. Without a legal identity, those people are less likely to overcome social, economic and political barriers. Civil registration is about protection, empowerment and participation,” said Ms. Haishan Fu, Director of the Statistics Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Participants at the high-level panel urged for a collective effort by governments and the development community to achieve universal and effective civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems. Two Ministers – representing Fiji and Indonesia – shared their national experiences, and the panellists also heard the story of how having a birth certificate improved the life of Mohammad Ridwan, a 15 year-old Indonesian boy whose birth was registered in his teen years.

“With such significance for good governance, the eradication of poverty, and inclusive development, it is time for the world to put the attention on this issue that it deserves,” Ms. Fu added. “There is no better way than to have a CRVS target in the post-2015 development agenda.”

Plan International, the leading international non-government organization on birth registration globally, concluded the session by reinforcing that the time to act on CRVS is now.

“The time has come and passed to stop talking and start acting. CRVS has long been the ‘orphan’ that nobody wants to bring up. It is about securing some of the most fundamental rights and should be top of everyone’s priority list. We need to know our population so that we can build the right number of schools, buy the right number of vaccines and at the very least be able to celebrate every child’s birthday. Let’s open the doors to our people. Let’s count every child,” said Haider Yaqub, Asia Deputy Regional Director at Plan International.

Media contact:

Francyne Harrigan, Chief, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP, Bangkok
M: (66) 81 835 8677

William A. Ryan, Regional Communications Adviser for Asia and the Pacific, UNFPA, Bangkok
M: (66) 89 897 6984

Cate Heinrich, Regional Media and Advocacy Specialist, Plan International, Bangkok
M: (66) 81 839 3032

Notes to editors:

ESCAP:
ESCAP is the regional development arm of the United Nations for Asia and the Pacific and is committed to providing a multilateral platform to its 62 members. ESCAP promotes regional cooperation to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic and social development.

UNFPA:
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency working to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person's potential is fulfilled.

Plan International:
Founded 75 years ago, Plan International is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. Plan works in 50 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations. Since 1996, Plan has supported 30 countries to establish a birth registration system, helped to register 40 million children around the globe and worked with governments to improve birth registration legislation.