Plan is an international child-centred community development (CCCD) organisation, working across 50 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises that every child has the right to be registered immediately after birth and has the right to preserve his or her own identity through a nationality, name and family ties. In 2005, Plan officially launched its first global UBR campaign, now renamed ‘Count Every Child’ which has had a major impact globally on engaging communities and governments in birth registration. Plan also plays a pivotal role in influencing and strengthening the work of key human rights bodies in promoting adequate implementation and monitoring of the right to birth registration by states. In addition, Plan’s work on birth registration has led to the development of some important global partnerships such as with UNHCR on linking birth registration to statelessness.
Despite these achievements, little is still known internationally about the benefits birth registration can bring to children, youth and governments. Poverty and social disadvantage play a key role in determining which children are not registered and where. Global studies have empirically established that unregistered children tend to be poor, live in rural areas, have limited access to health and education and suffer from higher rates of malnutrition and mortality. Other primary research has also highlighted the many barriers to birth registration such as ethnicity and gender, rurality and cost. There is arguably now a growing consensus among international organisations working on birth registration about the groups of children most affected by non-registration and the barriers these children face in realising the right to birth registration.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the leading international authority on child rights, has interpreted the right to birth registration as helping to realise a range of other connected child rights linked to health, education, social welfare, work and the juvenile justice system to name just a few. Plan and other international organisations have repeated this interpretation by long recognising birth registration as a tool to protect children from exploitation, such as child labour and child marriage, and as a means for children to access basic services such as health and education. There are numerous anecdotal examples of this analysis. For example, in some contexts schools have been known to refuse admission to a child, or to only temporarily admit them, until a birth registration certificate is produced. UNICEF has noted that although birth registration is linked to an array of rights and protections, ‘the exact linkages of cause and effect between the impact of birth registration and all these issues require much more research’. This view has been repeated by some commentators who have suggested that with the international community’s spotlight aimed at increasing registration rates, research needs to evolve in order to assess the benefits that birth registration delivers.
The importance of birth registration does not end with childhood. Birth registration also provides assistance in securing benefits and opportunities for youth. It has been anecdotally cited as a prerequisite for acquiring more ‘advanced’ or ‘sophisticated’ benefits and associated opportunities such as social security numbers required for employment in the formal sector, registration of a business, the ability to access credit, to open bank accounts or to be eligible for microfinance assistance and loans. In this context, Plan realises that birth registration could be important to youth, one of our key beneficiary groups, and its associated programmes, namely those focused on economic security. Birth registration can also be said to play a crucial role for the state. The Committee on the Rights of the Child regularly cite the need for robust and reliable statistical data for development planning and governance as well as the monitoring of progress towards realising child rights. Good governance requires that expenditure is allocated according to need and accurate population statistics arguably provide a means by which states can achieve this. Without accurate statistics, it may be hard to measure progress towards development indicators such as the Millennium Development Goals.
To help fill these research gaps, Plan International is seeking to appoint a multi-disciplinary team of consultants to undertake multi-country research to investigate these issues (autumn 2012). If you are interested in applying please see the Terms of Reference below for detailed information which provides key background information on the identified research gaps as well as the research objectives and research questions: http://plan-international.org/about-plan/consultancy-research-to-determine-the-benefits-of-birth-registration.
This Blog was prepared by Lucy Gregg, Research Coordinator at Plan International