A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term “birth certificate” can refer to either the original document certifying the circumstances of the birth or to a certified copy of or representation of the ensuing registration of that birth. Depending on the jurisdiction, a record of birth might or might not contain verification of the event by such as a midwife or doctor.
Despite 191 countries ratifying the Convention, the births of millions of children worldwide go unregistered. By their very nature, data concerning unregistered children are approximate. About 29% of countries don’t have available or sufficient data to assess global progress towards the SDG goal of universal coverage.
However, from the data that is available, UNICEF estimates that more than a quarter of children under 5 worldwide are unregistered. The lowest levels of birth registration are found in sub-Saharan Africa (43 percent). This phenomenon disproportionately impacts poor households and indigenous populations. Even in many developed countries, it contributes to difficulties in fully accessing civic rights.
Retrospective registration may be necessary where there is a backlog of children whose births have gone unregistered. In Senegal, the government is facilitating retrospective registration through free local court hearings and the number of unregistered children has fallen considerably as a result. In Sierra Leone, the government gave the National Office of Births and Deaths special permission to issue birth certificates to children over seven. In Bolivia, there was a successful three-year amnesty for the free registration of young people aged between 12 and 18
Statelessness, or the lack of effective nationality, impacts the daily lives of some 11-12 million people around the world. Perhaps those who suffer most are stateless infants, children, and youth. Although born and raised in their parents’ country of habitual residence, they lack formal recognition of their existence.