Both as a Fijian and as Chair of the Regional Steering Group on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific I would like to stress the importance of our work to create better civil registration and vital statistics systems in our region. Because unregistered persons are often invisible to the State; their level of vulnerability and the limitations they face in gaining access to help and social protection can be very difficult to assess. This problem is especially salient during natural disasters such as the cyclone we recently experienced in Fiji. A critical part of disaster risk management is managing the flow of information. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time saves lives and reduces losses, while also strengthening people’s resilience to disasters. Some Asia-Pacific countries now have state-of-the-art disaster information management systems, but others have major gaps in data and analysis Disasters without Borders, UNESCAP 2015.
Well-functioning CRVS systems offer great potential to provide timely and accurate data about the population, which is one of the critical elements of disaster response strategies. Without accurate data and information, disaster response or disaster risk reduction programs cannot be developed.
Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together; this also applies for our region and our work to ‘get every one in the picture’.
The improvement of civil registration and vital statistics (CVRS) in Asia and the Pacific has received a lot more attention over the last few years and is an integrated and important part of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Countries in the region have committed to improving CRVS systems through the Ministerial Declaration to ‘Get Every One in the Picture’ including the declaration of the CRVS Decade (2015-2024) and the Regional Action Framework.
The Regional Steering Group plays a key role in providing regional oversight and guidance for implementation of the Regional Action Framework and acting as a custodian for the CRVS decade 2015 – 2024 in Asia and the Pacific to improve systems by facilitating synergies between the global, regional, sub regional and national level activities and initiatives.
The most important benefit of a well-functioning CRVS system is the ability to realise and demonstrate the value in knowing about your own people. It will pave the way for countries to know exactly how many people are in their country and at what economic levels to determine their social and economic needs. For these reasons, over the last three years, Fiji has invested in a well-functioning national CRVS committee. This committee oversees national initiatives which demonstrate some tangible short-term impact and achievements. However, other the next decade we intend to leverage this committee with the Office of the Prime Minister, to develop a National ID system, invest in an integrated registration system (Health and Registry), establish government service kiosks at strategic locations throughout the country to provide services to the population, improve and develop the capacity of our doctors in the death certification process, and achieve automated coding of all deaths in order to improve the standards of our vital statistics (birth, death and causes of death). The production of information for national planning and strategy development becomes available on a routine basis through an online integrated and interoperable system on a national data dashboard.
For the future of our region, I hope the Regional Steering Group will be the “glue” to bring both ministerial stakeholders and development partners to work in synergy to develop country-led initiatives which bring positive change and impact to the country and the region as a whole. We need to work together to make this happen.
Equally, improvement to CRVS systems should be seen as an important part of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda. More than half of the ESCAP member countries have gone through a process of establishing national targets and identifying baseline data, showing us where we are and what we’re aiming for. The way to show results will be through consistent monitoring, evaluation and reviews, and the Regional Steering Group will provide feedback on progress at specific milestones over the decade that will help countries be on-track or get back on track if they fall behind.
Remember, if we are walking down the right path and are willing to keep walking, eventually we will get every one in the picture.
Chair of the Regional Steering Group on CRVS….
Mr. Jone Usamate
Minister of Health and Medical Services, Fiji