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A good legal and regulatory framework is essential for the effective management, operation and maintenance of a civil registration system. In the absence of a proper legal framework that obliges individuals to register births and deaths, and clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders involved, civil registration systems cannot function.

A well-designed registration law gives clear guidelines around how the civil registration system will work. It provides the rules needed to register the vital events records that affect the civil status of individuals, defines the role of civil registration in the production of vital statistics and its relations with other institutions that rely on such data, and defines the services it should provide. 

There is an important difference between legislation and regulation: countries are strongly recommended to have the law establish the general principles of civil registration, while using regulations to govern the operational and technical aspects. This allows for greater flexibility in the design and improvement of the system. The law should cover key topics such as the obligatory nature of registration of vital events within given timeframes, definitions of vital events requiring registration, core functions of the system and the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders.

To ensure an accurate and complete CRVS system, countries sometimes need to assess national CRVS-related laws, identify deficiencies and remedy them. The assessment of CRVS laws should cover the key elements discussed earlier. Given that countries have different legal traditions, there is no prescribed assessment tool; however, there are a number of useful frameworks and tools that countries are encouraged to use.

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