Excellences, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a privilege to be here with you today. Thanks to ESCAP and the co-organizers - UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, WHO, the Asian Development Bank and Plan International - for organizing this successful first Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific. This embodies the spirit of true partnership which is necessary in moving forward this important development agenda.
The World Bank Group considers CRVS and identification management systems as smart investments, the foundation for development and good governance, benefits all sectors, and critical to ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
There are now several examples of countries that have linked national identification systems with birth registration. In Botswana, the Omang (“who are you?”) system has databases that interface with one another. One of the essential prerequisites for a person in Botswana to obtain an Omang card is the production of a birth certificate. Every birth that is registered is provided with a unique Omang identification number, and the same number is printed on the birth certificate. Similarly, the Omang database is updated as soon as a death is registered. This linkage has resulted in increased demand for birth certificates in the country. Indeed, the Omang system contributed a successful democratic elections last month in Botswana.
But despite these compelling reasons, identification and civil registration systems cover only a fraction of the population in low- and middle-income countries. This makes it virtually impossible to accurately measure development progress in key areas, such as maternal and child mortality or financial inclusion.
The good news is that today we have the tools. The wide availability of information and communication technologies -- including ubiquitous mobile devices and low-cost biometrics -- is making it possible for many countries to leapfrog to smarter systems that allow for more efficient public spending and can protect privacy.
It was gratifying for me to know that on Wednesday, the youth held a special session and presented their own call for action - for their voices to heard and to register every child including the hard-to-reach, vulnerable, and marginalized. Considering that some of the countries in this region have large young populations, engaging the youth is laudable.