Why is birth registration so important?

Exploring Plan’s innovative approach to universal registration

Posted in: Child Resilience , Life Choices , Uncategorised

Globally, an estimated 1 billion people cannot officially prove their identity and 47% of those are children without a birth certificate.

Birth registration is an essential child right and a critical tool for effective protection from child labour, child marriage, sexual exploitation, and trafficking. Since 2012 HDF has supported Plan International to deliver birth registration to children in Sierra Leone and Liberia – nearly 1 million children have been registered in both countries. However, the global need remains vast.

Birth registration provides formal recognition by a state of a child’s birth and is a permanent and official record of a child’s existence (Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and trends in birth registration, UNICEF, 2013). The right to birth registration is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that “every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name and a nationality’. More recently the importance of the right to birth registration has been recognised in SDG 16.9, which aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030.”

In the past 10 years there has been an overall increase in global birth registration rates of children under five from 58% to 65%, however more than 100 countries still do not have well-functioning CRVS (Civil Registration and Vital Statistic) systems in place to register key life events (WHO, World Bank Group 2014).

New approaches are required to overcome current challenges and make the large improvements required to achieve universal birth registration. There is an urgent need for innovation.

“Despite continued efforts by governments, civil society and international organisations around the world, over 230 million children under five have not had their births registered.”



Plan International´s Birth Registration Innovation Team are bringing 6 key principles of innovation to this challenge. They have developed a tailored innovation process to create sustainable and scalable solutions for birth registration.

Understand Contextual Constraints: What differentiates constraints from pain points, is that they are usually intractable in at least the short to medium term. To make rapid progress, solutions need to be identified which can operate within, or in spite of, these contextual constraints.

Challenge Orthodoxies: The ability to solve problems is often restricted by assuming that long-held beliefs cannot change. Challenging orthodoxies enables the problem and potential solutions to be seen from a different angle, potentially leading to truly disruptive innovation.

Identify technology enablers and trends: Mobile technologies have already become a go-to tool to increase the accessibility of birth registration services in low-resource settings. Beyond this, there is a new wave of technologies that should be explored in order to achieve universal registration.

Get inspiration from other sectors: Looking to other sectors e.g. private and government, to search for ready-made solutions that are already solving similar functional problems is an important and cost-effective approach to innovation.

Partner for impact: Innovation demands operating beyond core competencies and challenging belief-systems. Partnering with a range of stakeholders who complement existing skills and expertise will therefore maximise innovation capability.

Fail fast and learn pivot: Aim to test ideas and hypotheses as quickly as possible and accept that failure is inevitable. Learn fast from the experience of failure, adapt the solution or approach, and test it again. The key to success is being willing and able to “pivot”.