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Birth certificates vital: fighting poverty & abuse

Birth certificates vital in fighting poverty and child abuse, says UNICEF

Stepping up efforts to protect children from abuse and guarantee them health care and education, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today joined other international agencies in calling for urgent and far-reaching action to ensure that every child receives a birth certificate, a document crucial in fighting global poverty.

“We know that an unregistered child is a vulnerable child, who will forever be condemned to live on the margins of society,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah told the opening session of the 4th Asia and Pacific Regional Conference on Universal Birth Registration in Bangkok.

“Our objective is clear - free birth registration and a free birth certificate for every child in every country. A record of identity often serves as the key in many countries and communities as to whether a child can go to school, get health care when sick, and be legally protected from abuse and exploitation,” she said.

Without sustained improvements in birth registration systems, tens of millions of children born this year alone will go without any official record of identity and will legally not exist. In the developing world, the highest percentage of unregistered births, about 70 per cent, occurs in South Asia, while in East Asia and the Pacific the figure is 35 per cent.

The agencies acknowledged that despite significant progress, there was still much more to do to ensure that every child, everywhere is counted. They urged the civil registrars from 26 countries in Asia and the Pacific attending the conference to rapidly accelerate their efforts, particularly for the poor, rural, ethnic, and marginalized groups, who make up the bulk of those left out.

The more than 200 delegates, including registrars, civil society organizations and human rights advocates, are seeking to identify ways to improve the system, debating issues such as strengthened laws and simplified procedures and how to increase public awareness on the importance of registration.

The right to a name and nationality is enshrined in Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was reaffirmed by Governments in the 2002 General Assembly World Fit for Children Declaration.

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