Across the region, UNICEF is working to ensure that by 2030, all births that happen within a country are registered.
Only 60 per cent of South Asian children under 5 years of age are registered and have a birth certificate. In many countries in the region not only is birth registration not complete, there is even less registration of deaths, marriages or other vital events.
Birth registration is a person’s first recognition before the law. There is no marked difference by gender but wealth status and location (rural and urban) are important determinants of disparities. Registration enables children to access their rights. The lack of registration limits a person’s access to protection, to services as well as potentially restricting a person’s ability to participate in society. Knowing a child’s age can ensure that age-related legislation is enforced thereby preventing child marriage, recruitment by armed forces and armed groups and child labour. A child’s proof of age can prevent unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system. It may signify the beginning of the legal contract between the individual and the State known as citizenship as the registration clearly indicates both parentage and place of birth.
Birth registration together with marriage and death registration, support knowing the child’s connections – family relationships and place of birth – may support prevention of child trafficking and support reunification efforts such as when children are separated from their family during an emergency, in the context of child forced or other migration, as well as when they are placed in alternative care.
Only 62 per cent of the children under 5 who are registered have a birth certificate. Birth certificates are also essential documents in some countries of the region in order to access services and obtain other documents. For example, a birth certificate is required to access education in India and the Maldives and to access health services in Bhutan. Most countries require birth certificates to obtain other documents such as an identity card and a passport.
The demographic information provided by civil registration is important for governments to create and monitor national population statistics and support planning and decision making, especially in policy aimed at protecting children. UNICEF has produced a guidance note for country offices to assist them in supporting national authorities to develop sensitive, objective procedures for assessing the age of children unable to produce a birth certificate or identifying documentation to prove their age.
Across the region, UNICEF is working to ensure that by 2030, all births that happen within a country are registered. UNICEF strategic actions are geared towards strengthening national child protection systems in order to reduce the obstacles of registering every child at birth and ensure free and universal birth registration.
UNICEF is working with governments to assess the current registration practises, not only of birth registration but the registration of all vital events recognising that it is when they are in harmony that they provide the most effective protection as well as data necessary for planning and policy making.
UNICEF works across the region to review legal and policy reforms that enhance confidential, universal, continuous, timely and accurate civil registration. This also requires that the service is available. In this regard, UNICEF works cross-sectorally to capitalise on the other sectors interventions to support birth registration, such as the use of hospitals to notify the civil registrar when there is a birth, or to work with schools such that if a child is not registered the child can be directed to the registrar. Innovative approaches are also used, including SMS technology and support to governments to develop online birth registration information systems.
UNICEF works with governments to support the realisation of the Asia-Pacific Action Plan to ‘Get Everyone in the Picture’. UNICEF also works with global actors to strengthen the capacity of those engaged in civil registration such as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the World Bank and the Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Systems.
These resources represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.
- Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific Website
- United Nations Children’s Fund and Inter-American Development Bank, Toward Universal Birth Registration - A Systemic Approach to the Application of ICT, UNICEF and IDB, Washington DC, 2015
- Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, USAID, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health organisation and World Bank Group, Strengthening Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems through Innovative Approaches in the Health Sector: Guiding Principles and Good Practices, WHO, Geneva, 2013
- United Nations Children’s Fund, A Passport to Protection: A Guide to Birth Registration Programming, UNICEF, NY, 2013
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Data and Analytics Section, Division of Policy and Strategy, Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and trends in birth registration, UNICEF, NY, 2013
- United Nations Children's Fund, Age Assessment: A technical note, UNICEF, NY, 2013
- United Nations Children's Fund, Age Assessment Practices: A literature review and annotated bibliography, UNICEF, NY, 2011
Last update: March 2021