© UN ESCAP 2015

Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) is the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events of the population in accordance with the law. The actors in a CRVS system typically include the civil registration authorities, Ministry of Interior or Home Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, National Statistics Office and development partners.

CRVS is about a person's legal identity and a right to recognition as a person before the law and their formal relationship with the State. It provides individuals with documentary evidence, for example a birth certificate, to prove their name, age, family relationships and the nationality of their parents, which can be important for accessing essential services such as healthcare, education and social protection. This also has implications for other ensuing rights and empowering activities such as political participation, recourse to justice, nationality, property ownership, formal employment, using banking and financial services and inheritance.

Recording every life event is also an opportunity to produce the most accurate, complete and timely statistics on the health and demographics of the population, and to maintain a national civil registry or a population database. While producing vital statistics through sample surveys serves a valuable function of highlighting and drawing attention to the possible scale of the situation, these can be costly, uncertain and may not cover the most vulnerable segments of the population, nor can they be localized. They are not a long-term substitute for vital statistics derived from a universal CRVS system.

Knowing how many people live in the country and its subdivisions, the leading causes of death, the fertility rates and life expectancy, enhances public administration and provides decision-makers with information to better respond to the needs of society through more effective, efficient and directed policies at national and local levels. This data allows the government to identify public health policy priorities and to implement Universal Health Coverage.

CRVS systems are crucial for achieving and monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly those related to maternal and infant mortality. By identifying populations at risk, governments can make targeted interventions and other preventative measures.