Asia-Pacific ministers agree on civil registration for all by 2024
BANGKOK, Thailand, November 28 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency welcomed the adoption in Thailand today of an Asia-Pacific ministerial declaration proclaiming a shared vision of civil registration for all by 2024. This also applies to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people.
The adoption of the declaration came on the final day of a week-long Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific held in Bangkok. The conference was organized by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), UNHCR and other development partners. Ministers and senior officials from 44 countries 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 people of UNHCR's concern within civil registration and vital statistics systems," said James Lynch, UNHCR's regional representative. "We know that birth registration can help to prevent statelessness, and hope that civil registration and vital statistics will allow displaced and stateless people to be included in policy development and planning in the post-2015 development agenda."
An estimated 135 million children under five years old across the region have not had their births registered. Millions of other important life events are not registered. "The birth registration of stateless and refugee children will ensure that they enjoy a legal identity, increasing their protection and facilitating future durable solutions," said Nicholas Oakeshott, UNHCR's regional protection officer.
Aside from being an important protection tool, birth registration is 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 the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions.
The Regional Action Framework outlines government goals, 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 expertise working with populations living in protracted displacement, UNHCR 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. More than 120,000 documents were issued to the affected population, including birth, marriage and death certificates.