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A new tool to help register every birth and death

Photo credit: unsplash/Lê Tâ

A well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system is the cornerstone of good, sustainable governance and is key to social and economic development. Universal civil registration ensures every person is officially counted, has access to legal identity and plays a critical role in monitoring progress toward meeting global commitments such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Indeed, civil registration is the best source of data on vital events such as births, deaths, causes of death, and marriages. These vital statistics provide decision-makers with the critical information they need when crafting population, health and economic policies.

To help governments strengthen their CRVS systems, ESCAP and its development partners, including the Pacific Community and the global public health organization Vital Strategies, launched the CRVS Systems Improvement Framework on 28 April 2021. This new comprehensive tool will support countries in improving civil registration processes to register every birth, death, marriage and divorce.

Understanding the importance of CRVS systems in conferring a person’s legal identity and supporting decision-making, governments and development partners from Asia and the Pacific adopted the Ministerial Declaration to “Get Every One in the Picture.” They also proclaimed their shared vision that all people in Asia and the Pacific will benefit from universal and responsive CRVS systems. Finally, they declared the Asian and Pacific CRVS Decade, 2015-2024, as the time frame for achieving this vision.

While we have made substantial progress toward that shared vision, halfway through the Decade, many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have not achieved universal civil registration. This is due in part to the complicated and paper-based processes requiring families to make multiple visits to different offices to register vital events. These processes reflect that CRVS systems span a wide array of stakeholders such as civil registration, health ministries, national statistics offices, and identity management departments. However, as proven by countries such as Armenia, registering vital events does not have to be complicated. There, families can access civil registration services in locations as diverse as post offices and bank agencies in rural communities and even do on-site birth registration in some hospitals. They also automatically receive electronic copies of civil registration certificates by email once they complete the registration process.

Responding to demand from countries, the CRVS Systems Improvement Framework is a new tool to support CRVS stakeholders in analysing and redesigning existing processes to improve their CRVS system’s performance and transform these recommendations into a strategic action plan for implementing improvements. The framework builds on an array of existing CRVS guidelines and uses business process mapping to introduce an approach to strengthening CRVS systems. This provides a guide for countries to apply a multi-sectoral, participatory approach to improve the performance of their CRVS business process. Additionally, the Framework aims to improve national stakeholders’ understanding of their CRVS system and its weaknesses, while enabling them to seamlessly identify solutions to existing problems, and monitor changes over time to test the efficacy of process redesigns.

Put simply, strengthening systems could translate to reducing the number of visits parents make to different locations to register a birth, thereby increasing the proportion of births registered. It could also help ensure that the cause-of-death data collected from all medical facilities and WHO-recommended medical certificates of cause of death are used everywhere, ultimately improving mortality statistics and monitoring health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several countries are already using the Framework to improve their CRVS business processes. The Maldives, with the support of ESCAP, is using the Framework to analyse and redesign its birth and death registration processes. This work informs the implementation of the Maldives’ new information and communications technology platform for civil registration and the revision of the civil registration act.

Cambodia is building on the methodologies described in the Framework to operationalize the ongoing reform to the local CRVS legal framework. It has a dedicated in-country CRVS improvement consultant and an inter-agency “Core Team” that meets regularly to assess, analyse and redesign civil registration processes for birth and death. Vital statistics production processes are also being strengthened with the National Institute of Statistics. 

Similarly, Vietnam has established an inter-agency “Core Team” and is applying the Framework to improve birth and death registration. This work has sparked discussions to register births and deaths through the health sector, creating a “one-stop” registration process. The Framework will also support the development of a process for vital statistics production. 

Ultimately, improving CRVS business processes is a critical step in supporting the commitments countries in Asia and the Pacific countries have made both to the 2030 Agenda and the Ministerial Declaration to “Get Every One in the Picture.” During the Second Ministerial Conference on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific from 16 to 19 November 2021, countries will discuss how to accelerate progress in achieving their shared vision of universal and responsive CRVS systems. With tools like the CRVS Systems Improvement Framework, Asia and the Pacific has taken another step closer toward getting everyone in the picture and ensuring no one is left behind.

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Daniel Swaisgood
CRVS Consultant
David Rausis
Associate Statistician
Jana Shih
Technical Advisor, Vital Strategies
Kristi Saporito
Senior Communications Manager, Vital Strategies
Romain Santon
Regional Deputy Director, Asia and Pacific, Vital Strategies
Statistics +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]