Chapter 1: Achieving universal birth registration

As the foundation of legal identity and the gateway to access many human rights, birth registration is critical in the fight to leave no one behind. Birth registration is thus integral to achieving the SDGs, reflected as an indicator for target 16.9 on the provision of legal identity for all and target 17.19 on statistical capacity.

The four targets of the Regional Action Framework relevant for birth registration are:

  1. Birth registration within a year
  2. Birth registration of children under five
  3. Provision of birth certificate after registration
  4. Percentage of total population whose birth was never registered

Registering a birth soon after occurrence is important to ensure access to services, reduce misreporting and produce accurate and timely vital statistics. Many countries have implemented interventions to improve timely reporting of births, especially those with low rates. This is seen in the considerable progress made on this target, with the rate of change much faster among those countries starting from a lower baseline. However, many countries must accelerate progress to achieve the target by the end of the Decade.

For an individual to have proof of legal identity and access to a range of rights and services, a birth certificate should be issued when a birth is registered. Most countries reported issuing birth certificates for all registered births. However, barriers remain such as charges for documentation.

The percentage of children under the age of five who have not had their birth registered allows an analysis of the children exiting early childhood without having their legal identity officially recognized, its importance reflected in the fact that it is also a SDG indicator. The number of children under five in Asia and the Pacific whose birth was never registered decreased from 135 million in 2012 to 64 million in 2019, about one in five children, with eight countries achieving full registration.  

Impressive progress has been made in the region in the past years, but increased efforts will be needed to achieving universal registration and get every one in the picture.