NEW YORK — While citizens of the developed world squabble over Internet privacy rights, 230 million children under the age of 5 are effectively invisible.
The importance of a well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system is easily overlooked. Its media visibility is minimal and, with the exception of the Girls Count Act of 2013 stuck in the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, its place in United States congressional bills is nonexistent.
Trusting the government with the documentation and storage of our private health information may be a hard pill to swallow given recent breaches of trust. However, with maximal security and optimal transparency, it is objectively the most efficient system.
The first Global Summit on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics took place only one year ago. While discussing the post-2015 development agenda, the organizations present agreed upon the importance of strengthening these systems in developing countries going forward.
Proper record-keeping is crucial for many reasons:
On the individual level, documentation received due to proper registration solidifies legal identity and ensures access to entitled health and education services. It also establishes a basis for employment, voting and property ownership. Women and children gain additional security and comfort due to increased protection against human trafficking, forced marriages and unfair transfers of property associated with widowing or divorce.
On a community level, tracking permits proper resource allocation, policy implementation and awareness of disease prevalence. In an era of U.S. budgetary controversy and a pervasive sentiment of frugality, investing in a system that pinpoints the most lucrative avenues for investment may be the correct course.
As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, measurements of success are lacking. High-functioning CRVS systems are crucial for measuring these statistics. In the Scaling up Investment Plan 2015-2024, the World Bank, partnering with the World Health Organization, identified that “more than 100 developing countries still do not have functioning systems that can support efficient registration… data on birth registration rates for children under five is no longer considered useful.”
The World Bank is currently structuring plans to recruit donors to sponsor the establishment of a global CRVS program. The scale-up plan estimates an indispensable augmentation of $199 million per year, for 10 years, for 73 countries, excluding India and China. In addition to the required capital, a “strong national leadership overseeing a country-led plan” and a certain level of technological capacity are necessary for proper implementation.
Although the U.S. hasn’t contributed to this initiative directly, Congress is currently reviewing a relevant piece of legislation. The Electrify Africa Act of 2014 recently passed the House and is currently under review in the Committee of Foreign Relations in the Senate. It calls on the President to establish a “funding strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa develop an appropriate mix of power solutions to provide sufficient electricity access.”
In addition to the anticipated result of alleviating poverty by boosting the economy, accessible electricity allows for increased integration of technology into government activity. Objectives like those proposed by the World Bank can only succeed given a certain threshold of development has been met.
Identifying the importance of, and structuring a plan to implement a global CRVS system was a victory in the fight against global poverty, but the road to completion is a long one. More attention must be brought to this specific issue so that the public recognizes its importance and forces development organizations to hold true to their word.
– Elias Goodman
Sources: World Bank 1, World Bank 2, UNICEF, Congress.Gov
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