BOGOTA, 8 August 2006 - The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UNICEF and the Organization of American States (OAS) announced a new alliance today to work toward ensuring free, timely, universal birth registration for children in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2015, with 50 per cent progress in that direction by 2010.
Joined by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, newly inaugurated to a second term, the leaders of the three organizations gathered in Bogota to support the initiative, which aims to grant an official identity to millions of the region’s unregistered children who remain largely invisible in their own countries.
“This partnership seeks to end the economic, political and social exclusion of undocumented citizens,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “When children are not registered, they are not counted and included in statistics. Without reliable statistics, we cannot have reliable programmes and services for the children who need them most.”
The alliance will strengthen IDB’s and UNICEF’s ongoing efforts to eliminate barriers that impede registration in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will focus on regional and sub-regional initiatives to:
- Improve the collection and dissemination of data relating to birth registration; - Support the modernization of civil registry systems; - Link birth registration with other social services, including health and education, as well as citizen participation, essential for good governance.
“The lack of birth certificates typically leads to a lifetime of invisibility and exclusion for those working and living at the base of the pyramid,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “Basic identity documents such as birth certificates and national ID cards are critical for engaging in economic and productive activities and exercising citizenship rights.”
Although the region exceeds world averages in birth registration, there are considerable disparities both among and within countries. For example, while Cuba (99 per cent) and Chile (95 per cent) can boast nearly universal registration, Haiti (70 per cent) and the Dominican Republic (75 per cent) are still a long way from achieving that goal. In the region, it is estimated that more than one in six children who are born every year go unregistered. Poor, rural and indigenous populations are least likely to be registered.
In Colombia, where the overall birth registration rate is over 91 per cent, trends within the country reflect those throughout the region, where registration rates vary considerably. For example, registration rates among the urban population are 95 per cent, whereas 84 per cent of those living in rural areas are registered. Children from ethnic minorities, those residing in areas affected by armed conflict, the internally displaced and refugees are among those who lack birth registration.
Overall, it is estimated that close to 2 million of the 11 million annual births in the region remain unregistered.
OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, noted that this issue goes to the heart of participation in a democratic society. “The right to an identity is an essential requirement for citizens to be able to have a voice and vote in the decisions that affect their lives,” he said. “Good governance is possible only when all citizens can participate in the benefits of democracy.”
Citizens who lack identity documents have difficulty obtaining employment, accessing credit, opening a savings account and inheriting property. Voting and being elected to office may also be restricted. For children, lack of registration can sentence them to a life of exclusion and invisibility by creating a barrier to access health, education and social services, while placing them at greater risk of abuse and exploitation.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.