UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. It is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children's rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children. UNICEF active in more than 190 countries, territories and areas through country programmes and National Committees.
Birth registration, the official recording of a child's birth by the government, establishes the existence of the child under law and provides the foundation for safeguarding many of the child's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child has the right to be registered at birth without any discrimination. Nevertheless, the births of nearly 230 million children under the age of five worldwide have never been officially recorded. The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of these children.
Apart from being the first legal acknowledgement of a child’s existence, birth registration is central to ensuring that children access basic services; and to protecting them from harm. Universal birth registration is one of the most powerful instruments to ensuring equity over a broad scope of services and interventions for children.
Being an integral part of civil registration systems, the demographic information provided by birth registration is imperative for governments to create and monitor national population statistics, and are crucial for planning, decision making and monitoring actions and policies aimed at protecting children.
UNICEF strategic actions are geared towards strengthening national child protection systems in order to reduce the obstacles of registering every child at birth. Actions in support of birth registration include legal and policy reform; civil registry strategic planning, capacity building and awareness-raising; the integration of birth registration into other services, such as health and education; community-based registration and social mobilization campaigns. Innovative approaches are also used, including SMS technology and support to governments to develop online birth registration information systems.