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Speech by Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator at the Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia-Pacific

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Date: 20 May 2015
Event: Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia-Pacific

Mr. Nguyễn Khánh Ngọc, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Justice,
Senior Representatives from the Government Office, Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, and other line ministries,
Representatives from Provincial Governments and Authorities, and
Colleagues from the international development community,
Good morning to you all.  

On behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam, I am pleased to join this workshop to discuss key results from last November’s Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Asia and the Pacific.

I am delighted that the MOJ, MPI and GSO are committed to this issue. Let me offer my congratulations for your tremendous commitment and efforts to date, including the recent passage of the Law on Civil Status, and your participation in and preparation of the important outcomes from the Ministerial Conference.

Civil registration and vital statistics, or CRVS, is not just a technical or bureaucratic issue.
At its core, CRVS is fundamentally about a person's legal identity and their right to recognition as a person before the law, an inalienable human right.

It provides an individual with documentary evidence, like a birth certificate, to prove their name, age, family relationships and the nationality of their parents, which are central to a person’s identity.
UNICEF estimates that in the Asia and Pacific region there are 135 million children under the age of five whose births go un-registered. If a baby girl is born but not registered, if she dies soon after, her death is unlikely to be recorded.

If she survives, without a birth certificate she is at much greater risk of being put to work as a child laborer, married off as a child bride, or trafficked against her will.

Many of us take civil registration for granted. But it is a passport for accessing essential services such as healthcare, education and social protection. It also has implications for realizing other rights such as political participation, recourse to justice, nationality, property ownership, employment, and inheritance.

But beyond individual rights, civil registration and vital statistics are vital for producing the most accurate and up to date statistics on the health and demographics of the population for evidence-based policy making, program development and delivery.

Knowing exactly how many children are born, how many people live in the country, the leading causes of death, fertility rates and life expectancy, is vital if the government is to be able to respond to the people’s needs through more effective, efficient and targeted policies at national and local levels. For example, the design and delivery of health care, education and training, and social protection programs across all age groups.

Civil registration and vital statistics systems are also crucial for achieving and monitoring the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to maternal and infant mortality. A post -2015 development agenda with strong emphasis on poverty eradication, governance, accountability and health must have CRVS its core.

Going forward, accurate statistics will be critical for planning and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), due to be endorsed by the UN General Assembly in September this year. Indeed the SDGs require what is being called a “data revolution,” which involves drawing on existing and new sources of data to fully integrate statistics into decision-making, promote open access and use of data, and ensuring increased support for statistical systems.

Unfortunately, the majority of countries in Asia and the Pacific do not have the data systems in place that meet the relevant international standards. For example, WHO estimates that 9 out of 10 people in this region live in countries with unreliable death statistics, which affects progress towards achievement of the MDGs.

In response, governments and development partners in our region have come together to form the “Get everyone in the picture” regional initiative.

This initiative began with the Ministerial Conference last year. The Conference was convened at the request of Governments, and brought together relevant Ministers, national statistical offices, as well as senior representatives of development partners to forge high-level political commitment for the improvement of CRVS systems.

The Conference led to three historic and meaningful outcomes:

i. The adoption of a Ministerial Declaration to “Get everyone in the picture” in Asia and the Pacific;
ii. The endorsement of a Regional Action Framework on CRVS systems in Asia and the Pacific by 2024; and
iii. The proclamation of an ‘Asia-Pacific CRVS Decade, 2015 to 2024’.

Today we have gathered to hear from the Government of Viet Nam about the Ministerial Declaration and the Regional Action Framework, and discuss how we, together, can “Get everyone in Viet Nam in the picture”.
The Regional Action Framework contains goals and national time-bound targets for civil registration coverage; issuance of legal documentation; and production of vital statistics by 2024. It is designed to help us focus and accelerate our efforts to realize a shared vision.

What is this shared vision? – By 2024, all people in Asia and the Pacific will benefit from universal and responsive CRVS systems that facilitate the realization of their human rights and support good governance, health and development.

Viet Nam has already made great progress:

  • It is one of five countries in this region to have achieved a birth registration rate of under 5’s above 95%;
  • The Law on Civil Status was amended to ensure the right of all children in Viet Nam to birth registration and a birth certificate;
  • Vital statistics are routinely produced and disseminated based on census and surveys; and
  • The Viet Nam Statistics Development Strategy has been approved, supporting the efficient and effective production of reliable statistics for sound policy making and development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to say that the UN is a very committed partner in supporting Viet Nam to achieve these and other milestones.

Indeed the Regional Action Framework facilitates collaborative action at local, provincial, national and international levels by enabling multiple stakeholders to align and prioritize their efforts, as well as to monitor progress towards achieving shared results.

UN agencies in Viet Nam, under the Delivering as One framework, provide coordinated support to this multi-sector collaboration by drawing on a wide range of expertise and experience from around the world and this region. In my view, it is this type of support that adds much value to the middle-income country context in Viet Nam.

Ladies and Gentleman, 2015-2024 has been declared the ‘Asia Pacific CRVS Decade’.
In our region, with one of the highest rates of the world’s unregistered births, we must undertake stronger actions to improve the civil registration and vital statistics system to register and record all the vital events of people, and use this system for evidence-based policy making, programming and delivery.

The United Nations, as ever, stands with you today ready to support the efforts of the Government of Viet Nam to “get everyone in Viet Nam in the picture.”

I wish you good luck, health and happiness and a fruitful workshop.
Thank you.