UN Makes Every Life Count on Human Rights Day

Opening ceremony of the High-level Meeting on the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific, 10 December 2012, Bangkok.

‘Make Every Life Count’ initiative gains momentum at High-Level Meeting on the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific

Asia-Pacific countries gathered here today on Human Rights Day to discuss strategies to improve civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) in the region.

Senior representatives from 46 member States are attending the 10 to 11 December “High-level Meeting on the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific” convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), co-organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with 18 additional UN, civil society and government partners.

Participants from ministries responsible for health, civil registration and statistics will discuss a Regional Strategic Plan that contains country and regional support activities to allow governments to take the necessary steps to strengthen their CRVS systems. The Plan will anchor efforts to move forward the ‘Make Every Life Count’ initiative, part of a growing global movement that is raising awareness of the importance of CRVS systems for safeguarding rights, generating reliable statistics and underpinning good governance.

In her welcome statement, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP declared: “Although all people have the right, from birth, to basic freedoms and protections, we access these rights once our births are officially registered and we become citizens. Attending school, receiving healthcare, being insured, voting, owning property, or even opening a bank account – these are functions of legal identity, and dysfunctional civil registration and vital statistics systems mean that the lives of many of our people, especially women, children and vulnerable groups, are not counted, not protected and remain essentially invisible. They are stateless and people without papers.”

It is estimated that between one and two thirds of children in Asia and the Pacific are not registered. Globally, three-quarters of deaths are either not registered or incorrectly certified. Some countries in Asia and the Pacific register fewer than 1 in 10 children.

CRVS systems are an essential national resource for recording vital events in people’s lives: birth, adoption, marriage, divorce and death. These records, such as statistics on demographics and causes of death, are fundamental for designing public policy that matches peoples’ needs. For instance, vital statistics generated from CRVS systems contribute to the measurement of 42 of the 60 Millennium Development Goal indicators.

By very definition, dysfunctional CRVS systems hamper inclusive growth and sustainable development. The millions of people who are not registered in the region are legally invisible and exposed to exploitation, including human trafficking.

Dr. Heyzer stressed: “No life should be allowed to remain invisible to policy makers. No person, especially in our region, should fall between the cracks through faulty or incomplete official data.”

The Regional Strategic Plan will be presented for member State endorsement at the ESCAP Committee on Statistics, which takes place immediately after the High-level Meeting from 12 to 14 December.