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Plan and UN work to ensure birth registration for children

A young man in Thailand displays his new identification card.
A young man in Thailand displays his new identification card.
February 21, 2012

Plan International and the United Nations will work jointly on birth registration as a key measure to prevent child statelessness.

Plan has entered into a unique global partnership with the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which will see two agencies work globally, regionally and at country level to secure birth registration for all children, especially those at risk of statelessness.

“Failure to document a person’s legal existence, beginning from birth can prevent the effective realization of a range of human rights, including the right of every child to acquire a nationality. Children’s right to identity therefore lies at the center of all efforts to prevent child statelessness,” said Plan’s Chief Executive Officer Nigel Chapman.

According to UNHCR there are about 12 million stateless people globally, of which about 6 million are believed to be children. To be stateless is to be without nationality or citizenship. Stateless people are forced to live in a limbo and are their rights are often violated due to their status. Children born to parents with no legal status and identity become stateless from the moment they are born.

“Stateless children are among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. The initiative with UNHCR recognizes Plan’s established expertise in the area of birth registration and gives both agencies an opportunity of ensuring protection for all children,” said Mr. Chapman.

Plan and UNHCR will conduct coordinated advocacy at all levels and exchange information on developments on birth registration. The efforts will consider specific needs and concerns of asylum-seeking, refugee, internally displaced and stateless children, as well as children at risk of becoming stateless.

Together, Plan and UNHCR will identify priority countries and seek to address possible gaps to ensure that every child is registered at birth. We will also work closely with UNICEF and UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Plan has been leading a global campaign for universal birth registration since 2005 and has so far facilitated registration of more than 40 million people- mostly children, in 32 countries. Our advocacy work has led to improved laws in 10 countries making 153 million children eligible for free birth certificates.

Raising birth registration rates is a global strategic priority for UNHCR for 2012-13. The UN refugee agency recognizes that securing a legal identity for all is a growing global concern and registration can help prevent statelessness and act as child protection tool, including in emergency situations.

Learn more about Plan's work in birth registration.


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