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Innovations, lessons learned and good practices

Peru: Indigenous civil registrars in Amazonas – a response to social exclusion of indigenous communities (Lessons Learned)

Year: 2007
Major Area : Policy Advocacy and Partnership
Language: English


Inadequate birth registration mechanisms in indigenous communities have contributed to social exclusion in Peru. To reverse this situation, agreements have been reached with federations of Amazon indigenous communities, and pilot projects have been implemented to promote indigenous civil registrars. This modality has led to important results in terms of access to birth registration and recuperation of cultural identity.

Lessons learned

The model of indigenous civil registrars could be applied in countries where children live in socially excluded communities with no access to birth registration, especially in Amazon regions. Indigenous civil registries provide a good opportunity for social inclusion and for reinforcing the cultural identity of these populations. The fact that the identity documents issued by indigenous registrars are as valid as those obtained in the rest of the country is deeply valued.


Civil registry offices have almost always been located in the urban centres of the municipalities or in religious missions, both difficult to reach for the population living in remote areas and travelling by boat. Furthermore, strict requirements have often been established, making on-time registration difficult. Another mechanism of exclusion, which is today a complaint of indigenous groups, has been the non-acceptance of indigenous names and the attribution, instead, of names of timber merchants, oil engineers or fishermen who came into indigenous territories for purposes of economic exploitation.

Strategy and application

Since 1996, agreements have been reached with indigenous federations from the Amazon basin to develop a registration model for remote indigenous areas. A first pilot project was carried out wherein the population could choose its civil registrars who were trained together with the community Apu or leader. Children were registered first, followed by adults lacking identification documents. As a result, the indigenous Awajum and Wampis peoples living along the banks of Rio Santiago agreed to select registrars from their communities. At the same time support was provided to the National Registrar of Identification and Marriage (Registro Nacional de Identificación y Estado Civil) (RENIEC) so that the Identity Restitution and Social Support Programme, in a joint effort with RENIEC’s regional office, would gradually assume the promotion, training and monitoring required for the running of the native civil registry offices. 
As of early 2008, there were 43 civil registry offices in the province of Condorcanqui with indigenous registrars who belong to the Awajun and Wampis communities and who have been trained and certified by RENIEC. According to a survey taken in the area, the registration rate reached 85% for children aged five to nine, and 92% for children aged 10 to 14 – compared to a registration rate for the general population of 57.2%. To achieve these results, the indigenous civil registrars organize local registration campaigns in each remote community. Lowering the registration age will be the next challenge as only 33% of children under age three are registered. The visibility of indigenous names in civil registries is another outstanding change. It is common now to find names such as Yumi (rain or water), Nugkui (generous goddess), Sugki (mermaid) or Ipak (a vegetable dye) in the registration books. A sense of pride can be perceived on the part of the indigenous peoples since recovering their names means recovering part of their traditions. 
Next steps 
The model of indigenous civil registrars and the encouraging results have attracted the interest of the Peruvian government and especially of RENIEC. As a result, the model will be further implemented in other excluded areas of Peru.



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