A well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system helps ensure that every person has a legal identity, facilitating access to the benefits and protections of the State. It is also the preferred data source for many demographic statistics with numerous indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) directly related to mortality and fertility while others rely on population data as the denominator. To know who is being left behind, the relevant disaggregated population data needs to be available.
Many countries experience lower civil registration completeness rates among certain marginalized and hard-to-reach population groups or geographic areas. Despite these inequalities and their negative impact, this problem often remains a blind spot. The groups affected remain largely invisible if the matter is not specifically investigated.
In the Asia-Pacific region, only six countries have reported conducting research to identify the challenges in accessing civil registration by subgroups and only four set national targets for subgroups. This lack of information on hard-to-reach and marginalized groups, and their exclusion, hinders countries from developing efficient policies. Inequality assessments are therefore critical to ensure full inclusion, and these disparities need to be specifically and thoroughly examined.
To ensure progress in registration is truly universal and fully inclusive, the Ministerial declaration to "Get Every One in The Picture” in Asia and the Pacific recognized the need to address disparities in civil registration completeness and coverage of these groups. Hence, the Regional Action Framework (RAF) for the Asia-Pacific CRVS Decade 2015-2024 (ESCAP resolution 71/14) calls upon countries to assess any CRVS-related inequalities experienced by population subgroups. Doing so is an essential step to getting every one in the picture. This step is also key to the realization of the 2030 Agenda in terms of both data and social protection. It is also critical from a gender perspective. First, it is essential to know how and why there are differences in civil registration by sex and any gender-related barriers to registration, especially for different sub-groups in the population. Second, vital statistics are gender-relevant such as maternal mortality, adolescent fertility, age at first birth and births outside of marriage. Improving these statistics strengthen the evidence base for policies and programmes to address these gender-specific issues.
Understanding how inequality assessments should be undertaken, including for death registration, can be challenging. This can, in turn, impact our understanding for instance, of COVID-19 in countries with the weakest systems and among the most vulnerable population groups. It is therefore, imperative that related systems are strengthened and improved in countries.
Given the importance of this work and the demand from countries for support (see ESCAP resolution 71/14 and report of 72nd Commission for example), ESCAP initiated a project to develop guidelines and technical support for inequality assessments. This has consisted of a three-seminar series during February-March 2021 on different topics, consisting of a webinar and linked Expert Group material. Country inputs during this seminar series and during the planning phase highlighted the need for increased support in conducting CRVS inequality assessments and strengthening the production and use of inclusive vital statistics.
The current project seeks to provide technical support and capacity strengthening to relevant national stakeholders in the project countries in order to facilitate the implementation of CRVS inequality assessments using secondary data sources. This will involve building capacity for demographic analysis to undertake inequality assessments as well as dialogue with policy-makers to ensure the results are used for policy formulation.