UN refugee agency welcomes adoption of civil registration declaration in Asia-Pacific

28 November 2014

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) welcomed the adoption today of an Asia-Pacific ministerial declaration proclaiming a shared vision of civil registration for all people by 2024.

In a briefing to reporters earlier today in Geneva, Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the agency, said that the declaration also applies to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people.

The adoption of the declaration comes 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 UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), UNHCR and other development partners.

The registration encompasses the recording of all vital events of people in the region, including births, deaths and marriages, Mr. Edwards noted.

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, Mr. Edwards said. It marks 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 five years old across the region have not had their births registered, according to UNHCR.

Similarly, millions of other important life events are not registered, although birth registration is an important protection tool, particularly in situations of displacement, Mr. Edwards said. Indeed, birth registration establishes a child’s legal identity and can help prevent statelessness, he emphasized.

In addition, Mr. Edwards noted that birth registration is also an element in UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to End Statelessness. Earlier this month, the agency launched

I Belong, a global campaign aimed at ending within a decade the problem of statelessness.

At the conference, 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, Mr. Edwards noted.

 

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