What is birth registration?

Birth registration is the official recording of a child’s birth into a governments civil registry. Every child has the right to have their birth registered.  Birth registration provides formal recognition by a state of a child’s birth and is a permanent and official record of a child’s existence (UNICEF, 2013).

The right to birth registration is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that “every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name and a nationality’.  Most recently, the importance of the right to birth registration has been reiterated in Target 16.9 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth
registration, by 2030.

Why is birth registration important?

Birth registration provides individuals with the documentary evidence required to secure recognition of legal identity, family relationships and nationality. It also provides the first proof of legal identity, upon which other identification systems e.g. national population/ID registers are often built. These foundational registers provide the identification services necessary to access public and private services.

As part of a government's Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system, the recording of vital events such as birth and death is a fundamental metric for smart planning and decision making. Universal and accurate registration of birth, death and recording of cause of death, enables production of vital statistics which governments can use to more precisely plan and implement effective government programmes. 

While legal identity and statelessness are different issues, there are clear linkages between them, particularly in situations of displacement. A lack of legal identity, to which a lack of birth registration is a key contributor, puts children at greater risk of becoming stateless because of their difficulties in proving their link to a state and their parents.

The Birth Registration Process

Steps associated with the birth registration process are well documented in the Principles and Recommendations for a Vital Statistics System, Revision 3, UNSD, 2014. These are outlined and explained below. 

NB. Birth registration processes vary from country to country and not all of the steps described below will feature in your context.