Name and Nationality
© UNICEF/DR/2005/De la Cruz
The current legislation on Civil Registry in the Dominican Republic is outlined in Law 659. It establishes that before a newborn baby is 90 days old, his or her mother or a guardian must go to a Civil Registry Office (a subsidiary of the Central Electoral Board) and submit a form from the medical centre where the birth took place, and photocopies of their personal identity cards (cédulas).
If the legally stipulated deadline has expired, in order to carry out the procedure they have to make a “Late Declaration”, a process that is twice as complicated and has additional requisites and expenses that many poor families cannot afford.
It’s precisely at this point where the tangled web that undocumented people are caught in comes into the picture. These people are like ghosts within the social system. They don’t have a voice or a vote, or any chance of being taken into account in the Government’s social policies. They remain invisible to the justice system and can’t demand their rights or those of their offspring.
Starting in 2000, UNICEF launched a regional process that aims to tackle jointly the problem of under-registration of births and to promote the idea of respecting the right to a name and a nationality, as well as access to education and health. At this point a Working Agreement was signed between the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and the UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and Caribbean.
This regional commitment led to a coordination process in the country, between the Dominican Episcopal Conference and UNICEF Dominican Republic, to organise a National Campaign for the Right to a Name and a Nationality.
In 2001 the Multiple Indicator Conglomerates Survey (MICS) had established that 25.4% of children under the age of five born to Dominican parents, were not officially registered. The statistics are becoming more and more worrying, as many families fail to register their children because the mothers and fathers themselves are undocumented.
In recent years, a public debate has emerged in the Dominican Republic on the question of issuing birth certificates. Birth certificates are now issued for free, especially when it is for school registration or for obtaining a cédula. It is acknowledged that there are difficulties with the question of nationality when it comes to sons and daughters born to Haitian mothers and fathers on Dominican territory.
UNICEF provides financial and technical support to the Inter-institutional Commission for the Right to a Name and a Nationality, headed by the National Children and Youth Council (CONANI), which has carried out a series of activities in coordination with several public and private entities. These activities include the launching and diffusion of an education and communications campaign on Timely Registration and the steps that need to be followed for a late birth registration. Using the 2005 Operational Plan as a starting point, the Inter-institutional Commission aims to run a campaign on the theme of “Register my Birth and open lots of doors for me” promoting birth registration.
As part of our joint efforts with CEDAIL, training has been provided for community leaders to support the operational processes. Likewise, during the last few years over 50,000 boys and girls have been registered during a number of campaigns run by the Central Electoral Board, in partnership with World Vision, CEDAIL, Caritas Diocesan, OSCUS and other organisations, with the support of UNICEF. These 50,000 children have stopped being invisible, can continue studying and may enjoy their rights fully.
Other Articles and Related Resources on the Issue:
Regional Meeting Guaranteeing the Right to an Identity and Universal Birth Registration (available in Spanish)
The objective of this conference was to establish a political commitment on the part of governments, aimed at achieving free, timely and universal birth registration for boys and girls in the Americas by 2015.
Dominican Republic with Name and Surname (available in Spanish)
Four hundred and twenty two children have benefited from the “Girls and Boys with a Name and a Surname” Programme, carried out in the Salcedo province, and coordinated by the Women’s Legal Centre, the Health Ministry, SEE, Civil Registry Offices and UNICEF.