Governments exist to provide citizens with basic services, such as education, health care and protection. But what happens — and what can be done — for the most vulnerable populations when countries lack adequate civil registration and vital statistics systems to identify and account for all of its constituents?
Birth registration is the realization of a child’s right to an identity and nationality, as declared in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its importance is underscored in the post-2015 sustainable development goals, which state that “by 2030, [countries should] provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.” A birth certificate often serves as a child’s ticket and gateway to important — often lifesaving — state services, such as medical treatment and vaccinations and enrollment in public schools. As proof of a state’s legal recognition of their existence as members of society, this official document can also protect children from trafficking, child labor, child marriage and other forms of abuse and exploitation. Upon the death of a parent, it acts as legal proof for inheritance and in disasters, it is often the only hope that children separated from their families have of a reunion.