Photo credit: Imagicity, Graham Crumb - Family in Port Vila, Vanuatu
Civil registration is the process through which governments keep a record of important events that happen in the lifetime of a person. The United Nations recognises 10 such events that should be compulsorily registered. Among them are live births, deaths and foetal deaths. The registration of these events establishes an individual's legal identity within a society and facilitates the realisation of fundamental human rights.
Can you tell us about CRVS work at SPC?
SPC provides technical assistance to Pacific Island countries and territories in developing civil registration and vital statistics systems and data. This involves supporting the establishment of a robust legal, organisational and management framework to facilitate universal registration of vital events and the production of statistics pertaining to these events.
SPC’s role is to help countries identify and address weaknesses in their registration systems–these span various areas such as legislation, information technology, the design and organisation of registration processes as well as knowledge and awareness among staff. SPC also provides support in compiling statistics based on vital events that are registered and in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is supporting efforts to improve the recording of causes-of-death in the region.
In addition SPC has an important coordination and representation role serving as the secretariat of the Brisbane Accord Group (BAG), representing members of BAG at the regional steering group on CRVS, which is led by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), the global CRVS group and among other international fora. More broadly, SPC actively contributes to international discourse on this topic.
Do you have an example which highlights the importance of CRVS?
CRVS is a day-to-day matter and most individuals have, either directly or indirectly, participated in civil registration processes at birth, marriage, divorce, or death through the registration of these events or upon request for certificates to prove their occurrence. Legal documents issued by civil registration authorities enable individuals to identify themselves to each other and to the state when undertaking various transactions. These records provide governments with accurate information about their people, which is needed to enable informed policy decisions and planning.
The second main function of civil registration is in its role as a source of vital statistics. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted its importance, in particular statistics on death and causes of death, as most governments are required to routinely report on the levels and trends of deaths. We cannot have a complete picture of mortality without well-functioning civil registration systems. Unfortunately, in many countries, the registration of deaths and their causes remains a fundamental challenge.
What advice would SPC give to improve CRVS systems in the Pacific?
Civil registration is the responsibility of a government to its people. It is crucial that civil registration infrastructure is made accessible to members of the public and that barriers to registration such as costs, long distances to registration offices and complex registration processes, are eliminated. In cases where births or deaths happen in health facilities, an exchange of information between the Ministry of Health and the civil registration office can significantly improve registration rates for such events as opposed to waiting on reporting by members of the public. As the challenges to a well-functioning registration system are diverse, all countries are encouraged to begin by understanding what these are by undertaking a comprehensive assessment of their existing systems, and developing well-targeted action plans for improvement.
- Resources to guide countries in this work are available at the SPC's Pacific CRVS webpage.
- Second Ministerial Conference on CRVS website (16th to 19th November 2021).
Interview conducted by Camille Menaouer, Corporate Communications Office