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Legal and regulatory frameworks

Conducting a legal review

Any initiative to introduce or modify existing CRVS laws will require careful preparation, and must be based on a systematic legal review that can identify significant legal obstacles, and opportunities for implementing interventions based on international best practice. Often, legal reviews can identify potential workarounds for gaps and obstacles that do not require new legislation or parliamentary involvement.

The following provide general advice on strategies that can be useful when developing or updating the CRVS legal framework, as discussed in the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Legal and Regulatory Review: Tool and Methodology, developed by Vital Strategies and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative. 

Step 1: Establish an advisory group or committee

Whether planning to prepare new legislation or to revise an existing framework, the first step should be to establish an advisory group or committee. The agencies and departments invited to take part might include:

  • Local law reform commission
  • Civil registration 
    service or other public agency currently responsible for CRVS
  • Health department
  • National statistics office
  • National information technology office or department
  • Police
  • Departments concerned with personal identification, voter 
    and military recruitment
  • Judiciary
  • Department of the interior or home affairs
  • Department of education
  • Social security department
  • Department of employment
  • E-governance department or agency
  • Tax authorities and other finance departments
  • Representatives of 
    civil society.

Given the number of stakeholders involved in most national CRVS systems, the specific designation of responsibilities for tasks, duties, and cooperation arrangements should be discussed early in the process, and clearly set out in law to avoid unnecessary duplication. Involving representatives of civil society will bring important user perspectives into the discussions, for example in relation to the ease, acceptability, inclusiveness and ‘user-friendliness’ of the registration process. 

The function of the group or committee is to prepare the work plan and time schedule for the legal review, keep the various agencies 

Step 2: Review of key documents

The legal review framework is based on international standards from key source material such as:

It is also strongly recommended that members of the advisory group or committee familiarise themselves with key terms relevant to CRVS legislation. These are provided in the framework and available here

Read more

Vital Strategies, Global Health Advocacy Incubator  Legal and regulatory review toolkit

Step 3: Collect relevant laws, regulations, standard operating procedures, manuals, forms and so on

Have members of the group or committee gather all laws and regulations as well as standard operating procedures, manuals, forms and other relevant documents currently available for registering births and deaths, including any that refer to the compilation and dissemination of vital statistics, disposal of dead bodies, certification of births and deaths, and reporting of these events by health establishments.

Using a daily research log to record search strategies and relevant documents is highly recommended, especially if several people will be working on the review. Information that should be included in the daily log includes:

  • Resource searched – write the name of the resource you searched. This might include official websites, academic libraries, government offices, secondary sources, etc. Be specific and provide hyperlinks to websites. 
  • Day researched – enter the date you checked the source. This will allow you to know the last day the source was reviewed. 
  • Search terms used – if you used search terms to look for a law, please include all search terms used, even if they were unsuccessful. This will help determine which search terms are the most effective. If you have discovered innovative and effective search terms, this information may be helpful to other reviewers. If no search terms were used, just write ‘N/A’. 
  • Law(s) found – write the short title of each law you found through this search. Be sure to include the effective date of the law if known. This will be especially important for laws that have undergone multiple amendments. 
  • Relevant provisions of law – briefly describe which section(s) of the law are relevant to this work and why. For example, ‘Law 123 is the primary law on 
    records’. Or ‘Chapter 22 references use of 
    certificates for school 
    . These descriptions do not need to be especially detailed, but will serve as a reference later to know which laws are relevant to which sections of the review. If the laws need to be translated, this will also help determine which provisions to translate. 

Once the laws have been collected, they should be uploaded to a shared folder using a standardised labelling format for saving the files. This will allow for easier sorting and organisation of the many laws and regulations that are involved in the CRVS system. 

Step 4: Complete the matrix of best practices

After the relevant laws, regulations and other documents have been collected, they will be used to complete the matrix of best practices. The matrix will assist you in comparing national laws against international best practice in CRVS systems by:

  • Identifying and describing any legislation on the topic and providing cross-references to relevant provisions
  • Identifying and describing any other relevant laws (including decrees, orders and standard operating procedures) and providing cross-references to relevant provisions
  • Evaluating whether the legislation and other laws align with the best practices or whether gaps remain.
Step 5: Draft and revise a final report

Based on the needs of the government and stakeholders, draft a narrative report of the findings of the review. The report should:

  • be tailored to the circumstances of the country and may not need to include every issue raised in the legal analysis
  • describe the CRVS system and highlight major differences between the CRVS system and international standards
  • explain any legal obstacles to aligning the system with international standards, and present opportunities for improving the system
  • clearly explain which government agency, if any, has existing authority to make the suggested improvements. If the improvement can only be made through legislative amendment, the report should note that as well. 

Read more 

Vital Strategies, Global Health Advocacy Incubator Legal and regulator review toolkit

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