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What can be done to rapidly improve CRVS systems?

High-level political commitment

Sustained, high-level political commitment is crucial for the development and continuous functioning of CRVS systems. Political commitment can galvanise all stakeholders and levels of society around efforts to improve CRVS systems, and enable CRVS improvement to be embedded into national laws and development plans. Furthermore, political commitment is critical for ensuring that CR systems are adequately resourced and are designed to be inclusive and responsive and that VS systems are trustworthy and fit-for-purpose.

International ministerial-level conferences can be important opportunities for creating high-level political commitment, as the extract from the Second Conference of African Ministers shows.

Examples of activities:

  • Issuing a high-level declaration at the ministerial or head-of-government level on the importance of CR for all individuals and the crucial role of reliable vital statistics for holding governments accountable for results. This can be a powerful stimulus to action and sets the scene for improved sectoral collaboration (see Ministerial declaration on CRVS in Africa, below). 
  • Creating or modifying legislation to ensure that registration of vital events is mandatory and that relevant departments have the needed resources (see A whole of government approach to promoting CRVS: Lessons from Bangladesh, below). 
  • Allocating resources for the implementation of a comprehensive multisectoral national CRVS strategy and plan with clear goals and targets to be achieved and a timeline for implementation.  
  • Ensuring that a national CRVS coordination mechanism reports to the highest level of government, includes representation of all stakeholders and specifies roles and responsibilities. This is important to maximise efficiency and effectiveness and avoid overlap and duplication.
  • Committing to the independence and objectivity of the national statistical system in order to ensure that statistics derived from CR are trustworthy and collected and analysed to the highest standards of quality and transparency.
  • Making a commitment to transparency and objectivity in the use of statistics and working with the educational institutions, the private sector, academia, the media and civil society to promote statistical literacy and a sound understanding of data and the interpretation of statistics.
A whole-of-government approach to promoting CRVS: Lessons from Bangladesh

Guided by the UNESCAP Regional Action Framework and recognising that CRVS is fundamental to many government agencies, the government of Bangladesh has developed a model for national coordination to develop a comprehensive and universal civil registry. 

A CRVS secretariat has been established in the Cabinet Division. It is the secretariat for the entire cabinet and coordinates across all ministries of the government and districts of the country. Thus, there is a whole-of-government approach to improving governance and quality of services and reducing inefficiency. 

The Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office – with technical support from the United Nations Development Programme and USAID – is providing strategic support to the government’s CRVS secretariat to embark on a three-pronged strategy for developing CRVS:

  1. Policy alignment with support from the Honourable Prime Minister herself and relevant members of the Cabinet, the necessary laws and policies are being put in place. The Birth and Death Registration Act of the Local Government Division, the National ID Act of the Election Commission and the Statistics Act of the Statistics and Informatics Division have all been revised, and will be further revised to achieve a responsive and universal civil registry. The National Health Policy and other policies are also being aligned with this.
  2. Coordination and partnership through a powerful CRVS Steering Committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary with more than 12 permanent secretaries as members. This committee is ensuring that the most important stakeholders of CRVS are on the same page through a whole-of-government approach and aligning their efforts and systems.
  3. Innovation that will be required at many levels to align business processes of the different agencies that will need to work together. The adoption of technologies and interoperability standards will ensure that data sharing across multiple databases of citizens can happen seamlessly. Bangladesh, in the last six years, has nurtured a considerable asset in the form of establishing more than 5000 digital centres at local government institutions. These centres – one within 4 km of every citizen in Bangladesh – represent an effective private partnership model. Service delivery is done by local entrepreneurs who help citizens access a wide portfolio of and private services – one of which is civil registration – in exchange for small fees. This strategy ensures that civil registration is part of a sustainable business model without which the government would have to consider subsidising civil registration perpetually. An additional innovation, capitalising on what has until now been a missed opportunity, is to explore how to effectively utilise the 60 000+ strong workforce of health and family planning workers – many of whom are equipped with laptops and tablets – in the work of civil registration.

Author information: Anir Chowdhury. Policy Advisor of the Access to Information (a2i) Programme at the Prime Minister’s Office, Bangladesh, National Advisor to the CRVS Steering Committee, and Coordinator of the UN-ESCAP CRVS Communications Sub-group.

Ministerial declaration on CRVS in Africa

We, the African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration … resolve to:

a. Continue our efforts to develop appropriate policies and strategies to reform and improve our CRVS systems, and to mainstream them in national development plans and programmes….we commit to  urgently develop costed national plans of action on CRVS….;

b. Formulate laws and policies that ensure timely and compulsory registration of all vital events occurring within our countries, with guarantees of equal access to the system for all persons, regardless of nationality or legal status. 

c. Adopt appropriate technologies to speed and scale up civil registration, manage civil registration records, and ensure their integrity and security against natural disasters, civil wars, etc.;

d. Accord high priority to CRVS and ensure allocation of adequate human and financial resources for the day-to-day operations of CRVS in our countries, including implementation of the national action plans in order to ensure sustainability and country ownership;

e. Call upon our development partners to continue to support our efforts in capacity building and resource mobilisation and align their support to the national CRVS plans, consistent with the Paris, Accra and Busan Declarations on Aid and Development Effectiveness;

f. Invite the independent Expert Review Group on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health to participate in the APAI-CRVS 

g. Establish high-level coordination mechanisms involving all relevant stakeholders for efficient functioning of CRVS systems, taking into account the multi-sectoral and integrated nature of civil registration services; 

h. Ensure the alignment of health information management system and the CRVS systems and that both be mainstreamed into National Strategies for the Development of Statistics (NSDS);

i. Further strengthen and facilitate coordination between National Statistical Offices and Civil Registration Authorities in managing and monitoring the challenges of CRVS systems;

j. Develop results-based monitoring and evaluation systems and tools to monitor and report on progress on CRVS;

k. Continue to take steps to improve the availability and accessibility of civil registration services by devolving services to local levels through existing structures and service networks, in particular the health sector;

l. Intensify awareness-raising campaigns to educate the public on the importance and procedures of CRVS to ensure their effective functioning.

Read more

UNESCAP Regional Action Framework. The importance of sustained political commitment

Ghana Birth and Death Registry's commitment to improvement

The University of Melbourne Data for Health CRVS technical team visit Ghana's Birth and Death Registry's Reverend Kingsley Asare Addo (Principal Assistant Registrar) and Registrar John Yao Agbeko.

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Tanzania's commitment to improved civil registration and vital statistics

This short video is an overview of CRVS in Tanzania, and highlights videos that provide a more in-depth understanding of their system and improvements as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative.

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Tanzanian Ministry of Health perspective: How is Data for Health doing?

Edward Mbanga, Ag. Director for Policy and Planning at Tanzania's Ministry of Health, Community Development, Elderly and Children agency describes the successes so far of improving health information and its use as a result of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative.

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