Governments and UN agencies join forces to tackle unregistered births in Asia-Pacific
Bangkok, 20 December 2013 – UNICEF, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP) and other partners(1) are working with governments across the Asia Pacific region to increase birth registrations, and have called for a ‘Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Decade’ from 2015 to 2024. This includes registrations of birth, adoption, marriage, divorce and death.
On 9-11 December, ESCAP hosted the inaugural meeting of the Regional Steering Group for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific. High-level representatives of the civil registration, health and statistics departments from Member States met with development partners in Bangkok to outline a strategy and formulate goals for the region. This inaugural meeting initiated preparations for a major high-level Ministerial Meeting on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific to endorse the strategy and goals, which is set to take place in November 2014.
“If our region is to grow in a wider context, then the socio-economic model needs to be underpinned with improved health, education and ability to create wealth,” H.E. Dr. Neil Sharma, Fiji’s Minister of Health and Chair of the Regional Steering Group, said. “All these elements require registrations and statistics to enable governments to base their laws, policies and plans on hard evidence.”
The Regional Steering Group issued a communiqué calling for a ‘CRVS Decade’ from 2015 to 2024. It also urged the inclusion of CRVS in post-2015 development goals, increased funding for CRVS systems, and a regional accountability and monitoring framework to be endorsed during the 2014 ministerial meeting.
“The level of commitment shown by the steering group members gives me great hope that by the end of the CRVS Decade, the scandal of lack of registration will be history,” ESCAP Director of Statistics Division Haishan Fu said.
On 11 December, UNICEF also released a new report showing that the births of nearly 230 million under-five children globally have never been registered. The report, Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and trends in birth registration, collects statistical analysis spanning 161 countries and presents some of the latest available country data and estimates on birth registration. Of the children without birth registration globally, over 135 million, or 59 percent, live in Asia and the Pacific excluding China.
“Registering a child’s birth is a critical first step towards safeguarding lifelong protection, including access to education, health care and social services,” UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Toole said.
The United Nations and partners are working with governments across the region to comprehensively tackle this problem. In Thailand, for example, UNICEF worked with the Government to secure a commitment in 2010 to register the births of all children born in the country, and in 2012 to set targets for universal birth registration. This includes a national plan to link almost 900 public hospitals to the civil registry by the end of 2013. Birth registration has increased to 96 per cent in these hospitals as a result.
UNICEF and ESCAP are also working with the Pacific island countries of Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, under an EU-funded partnership. This aims to achieve: birth registration services in rural and urban areas; an enabling legal and policy environment; and mobilisation of minorities, refugees, internally displaced persons and other excluded groups to register their children’s births.
ESCAP, UNICEF and partners expect that commitments from governments at the high-level meeting in November will drive improvements in birth registration throughout the Asia-Pacific region, benefiting vulnerable children and their families.
“Unregistered births are a symptom of the inequities and disparities in a society,” UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Toole said. “Birth registration is more than just a right, it is also key to guaranteeing that children are remembered, their rights are recognised, and they become part of the progress of their nations.”
1. Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women