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 registrationservice or other public agency currently responsible for CRVS
- Health department
- National statistics office
- National information technology office or department
- Departments concerned with personal identification, voter
registrationand military recruitment
- 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
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:
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (1998). Handbook on civil registration and vital statistics systems: Preparation of a legal framework. United Nations, New York.
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (2014). Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics system. United Nations, New York.
- World Health Organization (2010). Strengthening civil registration and vital statistics for births, deaths and causes of death. World Health Organization, Geneva.
- Secretariat of the Pacific Community (2016). Legislation for civil registration and vital statistics in the Pacific: Best practice guidelines and examples. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Nouméa.
- Department of Health and Human Services (2011). Model state vital statistics act and model state vital statistics regulations (2011 revision). Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, Maryland.
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.
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
birthanddeathrecords’. Or ‘Chapter 22 references use ofbirthcertificates for schoolregistration’. 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.
Vital Strategies, Global Health Advocacy Incubator Legal and regulator review toolkit