Importance and Status of CRVS systems around the world – Part 1
Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems are critical to legal identity, economic development, and public health. Furthermore, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 attests to the importance of CRVS.
Definition Civil Registration
The United Nations defines civil registration as the “universal, continuous, permanent, and compulsory recording of vital events provided through decree or regulation in accordance with each country’s legal requirements.” (UNSD). It is the act of recording and documenting important events in a person’s life (such as birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, and death) and is a primary function of governments.
Civil registration establishes an individual’s legal identity. It enables countries to identify their most pressing health issues, allowing for the development of effective public health policies and the measurement of their impact. In addition, it’s the method by which countries keep a continuous and complete record of their citizens’ births, deaths, and marital status.
Individuals can use the civil register to obtain the documented evidence needed to establish their legal identity, family links, nationality, and the rights that come with it, such as social security and inheritance. It can assist in actions such as gaining formal employment, exercising electoral rights, transferring property, opening bank accounts, and facilitating access to essential services such as health, education, and social welfare. During crises or natural disasters, the lack of civil registration can result in statelessness. New technology has created new opportunities for constructing more efficient information systems in resource-constrained contexts.
Global birth registration rates for children under five have increased from 58 percent to 65 percent in the last ten years. However, more than a hundred developing nations still lack effective systems for registering births and other life events such as marriages and deaths. As a result, almost 230 million children worldwide are not registered.
Data on birth registration rates for children under the age of five is no longer deemed useful, and indicators are now necessary to protect newborn children’s rights. Starting with routine monitoring of birth registration rates within a year of birth, this is a critical area for consensus development. Globally, progress on death registration has been substantially slower. In many parts of the world, up to 80% of deaths outside of health institutions and two-thirds of all deaths worldwide are missed.
Both demand-side and supply-side challenges explain the current state of CRVS systems. The demand for registration services can be low, with many people unaware of the importance of birth and death registration for themselves and their families. The absence of registration services has significant implications for their subsequent access to core government services. In addition, discriminatory laws, practices, and attitudes exist in some countries that prevent birth registration. Simplifying the process and providing a critical event registration service within the existing structures with which citizens interact can significantly increase registration coverage.
The lack of a political priority for CRVS as a system has resulted in insufficient policies and poorly managed, underfunded CRVS systems with a shortage of full-time professional staff. It is challenging to get the civil registry, health systems, and vital statistics systems to interact efficiently, especially in areas with limited administrative capacity. Integrating the various components is also a technical challenge due to diverse standards, protocols, and data exchange difficulties, requiring institutional agreements across multiple government departments. In many countries, modern technology has only progressed piecemeal, and there has been a proliferation of independent databases capturing only parts of their citizens’ information.
What is the best way to reverse the trend of under registration across the world? We can learn from regional and country-specific initiatives targeted toward greater participation and interaction in CRVS. Work is already underway to define best practices and set international standards via a global coordination group, so how is this reflected in the available technology solutions?
Part 2 of this blog will tackle these questions. Stay tuned for more!