Canada promotes civil and vital statistics registries as a human rights issue
“To make people count you need to count people” was the opening line of an event co-sponsored by Canada at the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The event provided a positive platform for human rights and civil registries experts to discuss the far-reaching implications for human rights of failing to track the birth, lives and death of peoples.
An estimated 230 million children under the age of 5 have not had their births registered (UNICEF, 2013). This may impact their ability to go to school and to get needed medical treatment, and they are at risk of being forced into a child or early marriage, may be trafficked and exploited. In addition they may not be able to receive identity documents proving their nationality, which would render these children as well as their future children stateless. Beyond the implications for human rights, the failure to register births can undermine the viability and effectiveness of health systems as it is impossible to ensure accountable service delivery without full knowledge of how many people are being born or understanding why they get sick and die.
This message was strongly reinforced by Ambassador Golberg, who underlined that Civil Registration and Vital Statistics are an essential tool for promoting and protecting human rights, including in the context of combatting harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage, as well as promoting maternal, newborn and child health. She noted that the Human Rights Council has important tools it can use to promote this issue such as the Universal Period Review, where countries can be encouraged to take the steps necessary to establish robust CRVS systems. Ambassador Golberg emphasized Canada’s commitment to this issue and to support the development of well-functioning health information systems everywhere.
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