Last update: Jan 2009
UNICEF documents and publications
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The objective of this study is to present available empirical evidence obtained through household surveys – namely Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) – in order to estimate levels of registration in 64 countries and to understand which factors are associated with children who obtain a birth certificate, and thus realize their right to a name and legal identity. The paper presents a global assessment of birth registration levels, differentials in birth registration rates according to socio-economic and demographic variables, proximate variables and caretaker knowledge, as well as a multivariate analysis. Statistical associations between indicators regarding health, education and poverty can reveal potential linkages in programming to promote the registration of children. By analysing levels of birth registration in the context of other health, education and poverty indicators, the study points to opportunities to integrate advocacy and behaviour change campaigns for birth registration with early childhood care and immunization. By linking birth registration to early childhood programmes, a legal hurdle can become a helpful referral to promote improved health, education and protection for disadvantaged children and their caretakers.
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This Digest looks at birth registration – a fundamental human right that opens the door to other rights, including education and health care, participation and protection. It explains why the births of more than 50 million babies go unregistered every year. In legal terms, these children do not exist and their right to an official name and nationality is denied. Their access to basic services may be severely jeopardized and they may find themselves more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The effects can last a lifetime, with the unregistered adult unable to vote, open a bank account or obtain a marriage licence. Non-registration also has serious implications for the State. Put simply, countries need to know how many people they have and how many there are likely to be in the future, in order to plan effectively. This Digest emphasizes the crucial importance of birth registration, explores the obstacles to universal registration and highlights the actions – including awareness raising, legislative changes, resource allocation and capacity-building – that are needed to ensure the registration of every child.