UNHCR welcomes declaration of civil registration for all by Asia-Pacific countries

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes the adoption today of an Asia-Pacific Ministerial Declaration proclaiming a shared vision of civil registration for all by 2024 (ie, the recording of all vital events of people in the region including births, deaths, and marriages). This also applies to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people.

Today is the last day of a week-long Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific held in Bangkok. In addition to the declaration, ministers and senior officials from 44 countries have also endorsed a Regional Action Framework with goals and time-bound targets to improve national systems to register and document births, deaths and other vital events and to improve civil registration coverage within 10 years.

Among other things, the declaration recognizes the need to reduce barriers to civil registration faced by marginalized and hard-to-reach populations including refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people. This is the first time States in the region have reached consensus on including such populations in civil registration and vital records systems.

As of now, an estimated 135 million children under 5 years old across the region have not had their births registered. Similarly millions of other important life events are not registered.

Birth registration is an important protection tool particularly in situations of displacement. It establishes a child's legal identity and can help prevent statelessness. It's also an element in UNHCR's Global Action Plan to End Statelessness. Civil registration and vital records generated from registration data will also allow displaced and stateless people to be included in policy development and planning in the post-2015 Development Agenda. This is particularly important in a region where few States are Parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention or 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions.

The Regional Action Framework outlines government plans, including plans to conduct baseline assessments of the current disparities in coverage as part of comprehensive assessments of their civil registration systems. UNHCR is ready to provide the necessary technical support in these assessments and in the development of these plans.

In addition to our expertise working with populations living in protracted displacement, our staff have expertise in civil registration in the context of emergencies. In the Philippines, after last year's Typhoon Haiyan, UNHCR worked with the authorities and civil society on a free mobile civil registration project to reconstitute lost civil records and issue legal documentation. Over 120,000 documents were issued to the affected population, including birth, marriage and death certificates.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangkok, Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 91 06