The United Nations defines civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) as the "continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events of the population in accordance with the law." The typical actors in a CRVS system can include a mix of Civil Registration Authorities, the Ministries of Interior, Home Affairs, Justice, and Health, as well as National Statistical Offices and international development partners.
Essentially, CRVS is about a person's legal identity, including their right to recognition as a person before the law and their formal relationship with the State. For example, a birth certificate provides individuals with documentary evidence proving their name, age, family relationships and nationality; documentation of which is important for accessing essential services like healthcare and education. Legal identity through civil registration also implicates additional rights and activities such as political participation, recourse to justice, property ownership, formal employment, financial services and inheritance.
Additionally, recording every life event is also an opportunity to produce accurate, complete and timely vital statistics on the health and demographics of the population, as well as maintain a national civil registry or population database. While producing vital statistics through sample surveys can function as a means for highlighting the possible scale of a situation, these methods cannot be localized, can be costly, uncertain and may not cover vulnerable population groups. Ultimately, these methods are not a long-term substitute for vital statistics derived from a CRVS system with universal coverage.
Moreover, registering, documenting and recording life events enhances good government and sustainable development. Knowing the population of a country and its subdivisions, leading causes of death, fertility rates and life expectancy enhances public administration by informing effective, efficient and directed policies at the national and local levels.
Finally, CRVS data is also critical for monitoring the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In fact, 67 of the 232 SDG indicators rely on effective CRVS data, including those aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality, eliminating poverty, building resilience to climate-related disasters and guaranteeing legal identity for all.