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CRVS stakeholders, structures and coordination

CRVS structures

CRVS systems reach from the highest level of government down to communities, households and individuals and thus benefit from different models of decentralisation. The CRVS structure used in a given country will depend on local contexts, such as government structure, geographical features, administrative mechanisms and history. For example, the CRVS system may have grown historically alongside the increasing complexity of governance, or may have been imposed from outside, possibly by a colonial power. Governance architectures reflect social choices, especially about hierarchy, integration, community engagement and sharing of information.

Depending on the judicial, political and administrative structures of a country, as well as its tradition, the system may be either centralised or decentralised. A centralised system is managed at the national level, with subnational offices at appropriate local levels.

Decentralised systems are those where the primary responsibility for civil registration and local vital statistics rests with subnational authorities, such as the governments of states or provinces. In the latter situation, a national authority would establish national standards and guidelines to be applied uniformly and compile overall statistics for the country from the data provided by the subnational entities. 

The challenge facing countries is not necessarily to modify the existing architecture, which may be disruptive and time-consuming, but to find ways of improving performance within its current framework.

Centralised CRVS governance systems

In centralised systems, a main agency from the anchor ministry has responsibility for directing, coordinating and monitoring nationwide civil registration, as delegated from the President’s or Prime Minister’s Office, often via the national CRVS coordinating committee  of the national planning commission. This can help ensure adherence to national standards and uniform registration procedures. The role of the central office is to provide administrative and technical oversight, set up local civil registration offices, provide needed guidance materials and coordinate registration procedures. 

The central office is responsible for coordinating with other government agencies that support the civil registration system, including health services that notify the occurrence of vital events, and the statistical service that compiles the registration data and publishes vital statistics. 

The advantages of having a central registration office to administer the CRVS system include:

  • Greater ease in developing, enforcing and updating national legislation
  • Adoption of uniform procedures for recording and reporting vital events nationwide
  • Greater ease in maintaining of direct and effective control over the entire system.
Centralised system with one agency

In a centralised system, CRVS may fit within a larger agency (eg a Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Home Affairs or Justice), or be separated into an independent agency (as is the case in Bangladesh, Thailand and Tanzania, for example).

Centralised system with one agency
Centralised system with more than one agency

A centralised system might have the functions separated, with civil registration under the responsibility of (for example) the Ministry of Interior, and vital statistics under the responsibility of a National Statistics Office. An example is Rwanda.

The organisational structures, management roles, operational functions and maintenance requirements of the two models for a centralised system differ. 

Centralised system with more than one agency

Decentralised CRVS governance systems

In a decentralised system,  civil registration can be administered at the level of major civil divisions, such as the state, province or department. In the capital city of each major subnational division, an authority for civil registration is established to direct and monitor the civil registration work of that area. Many countries with a federated political system, a large territory or a large population may have a decentralised civil registration system.

Within a decentralised civil registration administrative structure, the subnational vital statistics systems may be centralised or decentralised. 

Decentralised system with national oversight

An example of a decentralised structure is a national government that has an agency with oversight of the legal requirements of registration and responsibility for the information. This structure would also include administrative units at the state or provincial level with primary responsibility for data collection and operation and maintenance of the CRVS systems. Examples of this include Argentina, India, Mexico and Venezuela.


Decentralised system with state or provincial oversight

Another type of decentralised system is when the state or provincial government has responsibility for both civil registration and vital statistics within its own jurisdiction or boundaries, independent of the national government. The individual states or provinces make arrangements with the national government to provide data that can be aggregated at the national level. Examples include Canada and Philippines.

In the decentralised models, it is important to have uniform legal provisions and procedures for civil registration in place. Mechanisms should be set up to enforce minimum standards of practices and procedures so that comparable vital statistics are produced across the country. Mechanisms to ensure that uniform standards are applied to the registration process and to the collection and management of data across all local area registration units are a crucial aspect of ensuring coherence at a national level.

Regardless of the type of administrative arrangement at the national level, the work of civil registration should be carried out by local civil registration offices. For purposes of supervision and control, there may be subnational civil registration offices established to sustain the relationship between the national and the local offices. Closely associated with the local registration office are the primary registration areas and secondary registration units.


Read more

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (1998).  Handbook on civil registration and vital statistics systems: Management, operation and maintenance. United Nations, New York. 
United Nations Statistics Division.  Principles and Recommendations for CRVS  (2015).

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