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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 5 July 2012

Providing children with their 'first right': new EU project to ensure birth registration in eight countries

A project that will register children born in eight countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific; ensuring that millions more people can enjoy access to healthcare, attend school and vote in elections for the first time as a result, was today announced by Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs.

Registration of birth, sometimes known as the ‘first right’ of a child, is a passport to security, protection from abuse and violence, access to education, good health, advancement and mobility for children. Without registration, children do not technically exist, do not know who their parents are and have no rights. This lack of an identity at birth goes on to affect people throughout their lives; making them unable to access to health care and nutrition services, school, marriage registration, protection from abuse and violence or to vote.

The EU-UNICEF project, announced ahead of a key family planning summit being held in London next week by the British Government and the Gates Foundation, will be implemented in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Mozambique, Uganda, Kiribati, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and will replace existing registration processes, which, when available, are often of such poor quality that records are lost or cannot be retrieved. In a period of three years the gap between rural and urban rates of birth registration is expected to reduce by at least half thanks to the project.

The new registration systems, which for the first time, will make registration free, will use more efficient digital techniques and include mobile technology that allows people to register even in remote areas. They will also help to set up better links with health services – making sure that people are registered for health facilities and immunisation, for example – as well as social protection; ensuring people can receive the support they need by being registered.

Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs said: "Thanks to our new project, for the first time, millions of children in eight countries will now be registered which will give them the opportunity to attend school, receive healthcare and to make their voice heard by voting in elections when grown up. Registration is the 'first right' of any child, and I am delighted that thanks to this new project we will be helping to provide a whole generation of children with their rights; not just at birth, but throughout their lives. This will also help countries to have a clear picture of their demographic trends, which is key to defining sustainable development strategies for the future."

UNICEF Associate Director, Child Protection, Susan Bissell said: “UNICEF welcomes this partnership with the European Union to make sure the right of children, especially the most marginalized and excluded, to a legal identity is met. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child has a right to be registered at birth. Yet, in many parts of the world, millions of children are still missing out, and by not being counted as citizens, they in turn are denied access to the basic services and protection that they should be guaranteed. This partnership will go a long way in helping us build better and inclusive systems enhancing children’s participation as active citizens.”

In Asia and in Africa, less than half of children are currently registered. Children from the poorest households are twice as likely to be unregistered as children from the richest households. Those born at home have less chance of being registered. The gap between registration of births in urban and rural areas continues to be significant (for example, in Africa: 36 % in rural and 61 % in urban areas).

Children are often not registered due to difficult access to civil registry services, as well as the cost (both direct and indirect) of registering a birth and long distances to registration centres. Refugees, ethnic or religious minorities, or children born out of wedlock have had particularly low registration rates because of a lack of awareness of the importance of registering a baby, as well as cultural practices which mean children are only named several weeks after birth. Many parents simply do not feel that the need to register their children is as urgent as many other demands they face in their daily lives.


€6 million will be allocated to the project in total. On average, at least €150 000 has already been secured for the project in each country. In some countries, resources are also being leveraged from multilateral donors such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, and the national governments are increasing their budget allocations.

These eight countries taking part in the project have been chosen due to, amongst other reasons: the high number of children under 5 years old in the country, high numbers of adolescents without a birth registration certificate, lowest level of birth registration and high level of discrimination in accessing basic services due to lack of a birth certificate (for example, girls in Nigeria cannot enrol in school because of their gender and do not have a birth certificate); and on occasion, the collapse of the civil registration system due to civil war.

On July 11th, the UK Government and Bill and Melinda Gates will hold a major family planning summit in order to generate political and financial commitments from developing countries, donors, the private sector, civil society and other partners to meet the family planning needs of women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020. Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, will be attending the summit on behalf of the European Commission.

For further information

Website of EuropeAid Development and Cooperation DG:

Website of the European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs:

Contacts :

Catherine Ray (+32 2 296 99 21)

Wojtek Talko (+32 2 297 85 51)

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