Africa on Saturday marks the second Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day under the theme Birth Certificate for All: Fundamental for Protecting Human Rights and Promoting Inclusion, based on the recognition that the right to birth registration, especially to a birth certificate is a fundamental means of safeguarding a person’s rights for the entirety of their life.
The fourth Conference of Ministers held in December 2017 in Nouakchott, Mauritania, declared August 10 as the African Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day and advised member States to observe the day to reaffirm their commitment to putting in place effective registration systems.
The first CRVS day was observed on the 10th of August 2018 under the theme Promoting Innovative Universal Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System for Good Governance and Better Lives.
The Director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) African Centre for Statistics, Oliver Chinganya, says civil registration and vital statistics system is essential for the modern administrative system and good governance, protecting human rights and creating inclusive societies.
Chinganya, who is also Acting Director for the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management Division at the ECA, said the CRVS Day helps to improve public awareness of the importance of making everyone visible in Africa through universal birth registration and certification.
“Civil registration increases the credibility of national and local administrators and enhances their capacity to deliver social services by helping to identify what services are needed, where and by whom,” he said.
The ECA Director said the 2030 global agenda for sustainable development is rooted in universal rights and inclusive development driven by the key principle of leaving no one behind.
Emphasis on inclusive development of the SDGs is embodied in target 16.9 which states the need for countries to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030”.
“This has also been recognized by the African Union’s Agenda 2063; The Africa We Want, which echoes inclusiveness as a prerequisite to the continent’s growth and development,” said Mr. Chinganya.
“Unfortunately, in Africa the demand for registration services remains weak because many people have no adequate awareness about the importance of civil registration for them and their families and the implications that this has for improving access to core government services.”
He said it was also important to note that a well-functioning CRVS is important for effective implementation of universal and inclusive development, and for monitoring of progress towards national and international development targets such as the SDGs and Agenda 2063.
“Universal birth registration provides every child with a birth certificate, an essential legal document required to secure basic human rights to name, identity and nationality. A birth certificate is the basic legal document for securing recognition of individuals before the law and safeguarding their human rights and access to basic social services,” he said in explaining why the theme, Birth Certificate for All: Fundamental for Protecting Human Rights and Promoting Inclusion, was important.
More than half of Africa’s children are not registered at birth, which renders most of the continent’s poor unseen, uncounted and excluded, and by extension affecting their ability to enjoy universal human rights.
A birth certificate, as a legal document and proof of age, helps to prevent violations of rights of a child, including child marriage, trafficking, child labour and the use of child soldiers, particularly among vulnerable and marginalized populations, said Mr. Chinganya.
Birth certificates also facilitate access to school, health services and social protection benefits, which reduces vulnerability of children to poverty and risk of exploitation, he added.
“Registration of birth is a key event of civil registration in the life cycle, it is a human right and promotes inclusion,” the Director said.
According to estimates, over 500 million people in Africa do not have identity cards. Of this number, around 120 million are children who do not have birth certificates.