Every Child's Birth Right

Inequities and trends in birth registration


Date of publication:  12 Dec 2013 Authors:  Claudia Cappa Publisher:  United Nation Children's Fund Publication type:  Report / Study / Data

This report was produced at UNICEF headquarters by the Data and Analytics Section (formerly the Statistics and Monitoring Section), Division of Policy and Strategy. The report was prepared by Claudia Cappa, under the direction of Tessa Wardlaw. Birth registration is a fundamental human right that can safeguard children from harm and exploitation. It is also the first step in the realization of other rights – throughout a person’s lifetime. Birth registration establishes a child’s official identity, which can later open doors to entering school, finding employment, travelling abroad, running for political office and participating in other aspects of civic life. Birth registration is also central to a country’s vital statistics, which provide the data needed for sound social and economic planning. Findings (excerpts) ** Nearly 230 million children under age five do not officially exist. ** Some progress has been achieved in raising birth registration levels. ** Registration rates are lowest among socially disadvantaged children Implications for Programming: The findings suggest that interventions to accelerate progress in birth registration should be given priority, especially in the poorest countries, in rural areas within a country and among socially disadvantaged groups. Experience shows that such interventions can achieve maximum coverage by combining them with services that children and their parents are likely to come into contact with, particularly those related to health and education. Significant disparities suggest that targeted action must be taken to ensure that all population groups are covered. This necessitates careful review of the legislation regulating registration procedures and requirements, and of the operation of the civil registry. It also requires looking at the demand for birth registration among various population groups. In seeking to increase birth registration rates, it is important to remember that a narrow focus on this objective can detract from the larger issue of improving the reliability of the civil registration system as a whole. For example, a concerted campaign can result in improved birth registration rates. But if birth records are full of errors and poorly preserved, they may be of little value. Progress in birth registration is closely linked to the quality of a civil registration system.

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