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A birth certificate isn’t just a piece of paper

Pacific civil registrars in 16 countries commit to give every child the right to a name and identity

4 October, 2017, SUVA – If a cyclone or flood happened today and your child was separated from their family, what is the one thing that could bring them back to you? A birth certificate isn’t just a piece of paper.

“In times of emergency, a birth certificate can help to find children separated from their families, and return these children safely home,” said Sheldon Yett, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Pacific Representative. “Every child has a right to a name, and in an emergency response this birth certificate could be the difference between a child coming home to their family and village, or not.”

The Pacific Civil Registrars – Disaster Preparation and Response Workshop held this week aims to increase civil registrars’ understanding of the current status of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems across the Pacific and the role they can play in a disaster response.

“Registration at birth is not just a child’s right to a name and identity but it allows the fulfilment of other rights – access to health, education and other social services, and nationality,” said Mr. Yett.

From the time a baby is born, receiving their vaccines, the first day of school, accessing health services and basic care, getting married, all these events throughout life are possible due to registration.

“Every child has the right to a name and identity. It is the first step to accessing services throughout their lives. UNICEF, together with its partners, aims to reach 100 per cent registration of newborn babies in the Pacific in the next five years,” he added.

Jeff Montgomery, Registrar-General of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in New Zealand, speaking at the event, said, “It is an honour to have so many civil registrars in one room this week, sharing innovative solutions on how we can ensure all births and deaths are registered, as well as the role this data plays in any future disaster response.”  

UNICEF supports the strengthening of birth registration systems in Pacific countries in the areas of awareness-raising, training of personnel, mobile registration campaigns and provision of computers for data collection.

"Without a birth certificate, I will have no record on whether I’m dead or alive. It’s the only proof that I really exist," said Serupepeli, aged 12, of Navunisea District School in Dawasamu Tailevu, during a focus group discussion on birth registration.

The workshop is made possible with the support of the Brisbane Accord Group and funding from UNICEF, New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Programme (NZ MFAT), Secretariat of the Pacific Community, De La Rue, Object Consulting, Canadian Bank Note (CBN) Company and Axiell. 

About the Pacific Civil Registrars’ Network (PCRN)

PCRN membership include 36 countries or states, 21 agencies and 12 businesses. The Network provides an opportunity to share information, lessons learned and good practice. It fosters coordination and integration of Civil Registrars’ input and ideas into the implementation of the Pacific Vital Statistics Action Plan (PVSAP) and the Asia Pacific Regional Action Framework for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics. PCRN is supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand and BAG partners. For more information on PCRN Strategic Plan 2015-2026, visit

About the Brisbane Accord Group (BAG)

The Brisbane Accord Group (BAG) was established in 2010 with a view to improving coordination between partners and supporting Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICT’s) to improve their Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems. BAG membership has evolved over time and includes PCRN members, UN and Pacific regional organisations, non-governmental organisations and academia. For more information about CRVS in the Pacific, visit;


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit  

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For more information please contact:

Jeff Montgomery, Registrar-General and General Manager, Births, Deaths, Marriages, Citizenship and Translations, Mauri o te Tangata, The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua, Desk: 04 382 3633   Mobile: 021 818 449, Twitter: @montgomerynz,

Cate Heinrich, UNICEF Pacific, +679 9925 606,



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