Every month leading up to the 2020 edition, Digital Society & Identity expert Guy DE FELCOURT will regularly share his views and reflections on a topic linked to a specific track, which shaped TRUSTECH 2019. An excellent opportunity to (re)-discover some of the presentations held during the last edition of TRUSTECH.
In this first article, he reflects on the need for effective and permanent training in civil registration in several countries. This article makes reference to the conference track entitled "Training Capacity Building in Civil Registration – A Precondition for a Successful Digitalization" , which was presented by Alenka Prvinšek Persoglio, Vice President and Co-Founder of Interact4c on the 27th of November 2019.
Capacity building in civil registration - a real challenge for several countries
In the past five years, the registration of births and the establishment of official identity programs inclusive of resident populations have seen a significant progress in almost all countries.
While the 2015 United Nations' goal of an identity for all by 2030 might have seemed too ambitious, today it seems achievable, although efforts will need to be invested in the capacity of the countries that need effective systems. The successive advances made in Asia (Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in particular) and in Africa are promising.
If global and national policies are seeing their results progress in relation to the major quantitative objectives, behind the scenes there are still exist qualitative difficulties that are far from being resolved. The intervention of Mrs. Alenka Prvinsek Persoglio at last year's TRUSTECH edition showed how many challenges still remain to be met in order to develop appropriate capacity building -legislative and institutional frameworks - in the countries that strive to build their national systems of Civil Registration with the assistance of new technologies.
Identity for all: qualitatives challenge after quantitative ones?
A first visible challenge is the recording of vital events. Many births are still reported late (by several months, if not years), while a still large proportion of deaths are reported late or unrecorded, and give insufficient information about the reason of death. This is contrary to the guiding objective to develop effective health policies that will eradicate mortality of newborns and young mothers.
As for other vital events such as marriages, divorces, or elements of civil status like names, changes of residence or citizenship, they are still often little or badly informed. In particular, too little attention is paid to the nexus of lack of birth registration and statelessness and to it the related obligation of the States to have enough legal safeguards in respective legislation. It happens too often that children who have not been registered at birth end up in children trafficking chains for labour or sex exploitation. A person who is not registered at birth may not benefit from state protection, if the state does not recognize him or her as a citizen.
There are therefore shortcomings both in the extent and completion of the event recording system, in the accuracy of the data and their coding or the time taken to update them. The exploitation of statistical data suffers, including on simple analyses such as fertility rates, mortality or the percentage of children in school.
Strengthening institutional capabilities
This may come as a surprise at a time when digital and computerized management systems are widespread. The solution to this challenge is elsewhere. It resides in the capacity to train administrators and professionals of civil status and vital statistics (CRVS) capable of embracing together all legislative, administrative, statistical, technical, IT and operational subjects.
These executives must be motivated in the first place by the awareness of the importance of the subject of CRVS, and in the capacity of the government to develop health, education and economy policies. They must also be able to assess the performance of the legislation and systems in place and progress in their effective capacity for practical use. For example, by checking that the population has good access to all the legal documentation and certifications necessary to ingress state services in the areas of nutrition, health, education or administration, and is entitled to fair elections with a reliable voter registration.
Other qualitative factors play a role such as gender equality in the declaration of vital events, or the availability of data for an exploitation proportional to the use required by the administrations. The inclusion of vulnerable groups in the access to their legitimate rights, and the prohibition of discrimination are also very important factors.
Today if as Alenka Prvinsek Persoglio revealed to us during TRUSTECH's last edition, training in civil status remains a challenge for several countries, this needs to be addressed. Governments must be convinced of the issue, and support the need to introduce professional in-service training of their HQ staff, who will then in a form of “Train the Trainers” develop a permanent training capacity within a national institution responsible for civil registration. Academics should contribute theoretical knowledge, while the practical application must come from the institutions.
Investing in civil status and identity skills has long-term benefits. At the heart of the foundation of society and the sovereign missions of the state, they also participate in the establishment of a high-level and efficient administration and contribute to the self-sufficiency of the countries in terms of the knowledge which is necessary for the management of identity in the 21st century.
TRUSTECH 2019 Presentation: Training Capacity Building in Civil Registration – A Precondition for a Successful Digitalization
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 State Obligation to Establish Legal Identity in Comparative Perspective, Alenka Prvinsek Persoglio, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2019/05/01/state-obligation-to-establish-legal-identity-in-comparative-perspective/
 General Comment on Article 6 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, ACERWC/GC/02(2014), https://violenceagainstchildren.un.org/sites/violenceagainstchildren.un.org/files/document_files/gc-no2-on-article-6-of-the-african-charter-on-the-rights-and-welfare-of-the-child.pdf