By now, everyone reading this article is already aware that former Secretary-General Kofi Annan passed away on 18 August 2018 in Bern, Switzerland. However, what readers may not know, or immediately recall, is that Mr. Annan was an early supporter of birth registration as a central means for protecting children. Specifically, he made his views clear in the 2001 publication of We the Children, by articulating that:
"During the 1990s, there was growing awareness of the importance of prompt birth registration as an essential means of protecting a child’s right to identity, as well as respect for other child rights. Failure to register births promptly has been linked to the trafficking of babies. The lack of a birth certificate may prevent a child from receiving health care, nutritional supplements and social assistance, and from being enrolled in school. Later in childhood, identity documents help protect children against early marriage, child labour, premature enlistment in the armed forces or, if accused of a crime, prosecution as an adult".
According to UNICEF, at the time of publication, We the Children was considered “a landmark review of the progress made in meeting the commitments of the 1990 World Summit for Children”. The historical importance of this publication is amplified when considering that the 1990 Summit was, also at the time, the “largest gathering of world leaders in history” and was the driving force behind national commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Notably, the CRC is still the most widely adopted international human rights instrument.
With that in mind, the CRVS team in the Statistics Division of UN ESCAP wanted to take this opportunity to remind readers of Mr. Annan's contributions to our collective goals of protecting children by highlighting his foresight on this important issue, as well as his tireless work on behalf of human rights everywhere.