In a major new study released today, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that millions of babies go unregistered at birth, and as such they have no official identity, recognized name or nationality.
Using the most recent data available, the UNICEF report, Birth Registration – Right from the Start, estimates that 50 million babies, or 41 per cent of births worldwide, were not registered in 2000. In 19 countries, at least 60 per cent of all children under five were not registered at birth.
The report underscores the high social cost of the trend, pointing out that people with no birth certificate may be unable to apply for a passport or formal job, open a bank account, get a marriage licence, stand for elective office or vote.
“A birth certificate is one of the most important pieces of paper a person will ever own,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “Unregistered children lack the most basic protection against abuse and exploitation and become a more attractive commodity to a child trafficker, illegal adoption rings, and others who seek to take advantage of their non-status.”
In today’s world, with massive population movements, organized child trafficking and the growing impact of armed conflicts on children, birth registration is more essential than ever, the report argues. Registration secures the recognition of every person before the law and safeguards their rights. Proof of age is also critical to protecting children from abuse and exploitation, including military recruitment, child labour and early marriage.
The right to be registered immediately after birth and to acquire a name and a nationality is recognized under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was recently reinforced by the UN General Assembly special session on children, which called on all States to ensure that all children in the world enjoy this right.