The Community of Sant Egidio has launched its global programme BRAVO! Birth Registration for All versus Oblivion in view of growing issue of unregistered children and its implications on peace and stability of states in the developing countries. According to UNICEF estimates the number of unregistered children every year has increased from 48 million (2003) to 51 million (2007). The Community of Sant Egidio has adopted a programmatic approach to address the issue: we will work with the concerned Government ministries and departments, assist in building capacity of the civil registration systems, create awareness by educating parents and children, and adopt an approach which will create balance between service provider (Government) and the beneficiaries (people/children).
The programme has already started in several african countries. The lack of birth registration is fuelling conflicts and leading to instability—it is affecting children and adults alike, and especially the young people are affected most.
Birth registration is child’s first right, as enshrined in Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989 - the most ratified Convention of the United Nations. Prior to the CRC, the right to birth registration was highlighted in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, in its article 24.
Birth registration is not only a right in itself; it is the means to access various other rights and services throughout the lifespan of an individual - services which States are obliged to provide to their citizens. It has implications on the role of an individual in the affairs of the State and in personal life including but not limited to:
(1) timely start of education at primary level;
(2) completion of education;
(3) start of economic activity—job, business, etc;
(4) getting married—having a family;
(5) receiving vaccination as a child;
(6) electing representatives to assemblies and local councils and/or getting elected;
(7) receiving protection in juvenile justice as a minor;
(8) protection against under-age recruitment in armed forces;
(10) protection against early marriage, etc.
Birth registration has direct implications on effective citizenship. Citizenship, here, is not synonym with nationality; it is related to the function of a person within his legal and social relationships.
Birth registration is remarkably placed in everyday life of a person; it effectively underpins the familial and societal fabrics, and firmly supports the administrative system of the State. Timely registration of births provides opportunities to the person himself, besides protecting the right of others to similar opportunities. It is a subtle but critical balancing factor with far reaching effects.
However, the situation around the world with regard to birth registration is regrettably sad, and the indifference is continuing to multiply the magnitude of the issue itself, and many other issues are springing out of it: 51 million children go un-registered across the world every year, making them vulnerable both as children and later as adults. The likelihood of trafficking of these children, and abuses of different kinds - ranging from sexual abuse, engagement in armed conflicts to labour and early age marriage, etc - is higher than of those registered at birth. It is thus rightly considered as an effective means of child protection.
Two in three children in Sub-Saharan Africa go unregistered, making them invisible in the eyes of the law. The Community of Sant’Egidio works to bring these children out of invisibility, ensuring to the extent possible that they exercise their full citizenship rights and are responsible actors in the life of the State where they live.