EAST AND SOUTH ASIAN WORKSHOP ON
STRATEGIES FOR ACCELERATING THE IMPROVEMENT OF
CIVIL REGISTRATION AND VITAL STATISTICS SYSTEMS
29 November to 3 December 1993
II. CONCLUSIONS OF THE WORKSHOP
The objective of the workshop was to improve and speed up the registration of vital events, primarily births and deaths, in order to enhance quality and security and minimize double registrations, delayed registrations, omissions, counterfeiting or alteration without legal consent, all of which have serious effects on the reliability of the registration records. The latter considerations are important at the grass roots in human rights issues and provide the basis for citizenship and the buildup of a nation. In some instances, security reasons can be argued in favor of improving the civil registration system. Improvement of the civil registration source alone, will of course not suffice but will help to streamline the compilation and processing of vital statistics from registration data for accuracy and timeliness. Vital statistics are of extreme importance, as they shed light on the health situation, on population growth even at the smallest administrative sub-divisions, on progress towards goals in health, family planning, etc.
Participants in the Workshop, suggested the following strategies to accelerate the improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems in countries of East and South Asia:
1. The Workshop, considering the importance and usefulness of the evaluation and assessment exercise on the current status of the civil registration (the registration of live births, deaths, foetal deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.) and vital statistics systems in:
a. Bringing together the two systems (civil registration and vital statistics) in one integrated study;
b. Identifying the particular issues and problems of each system;
c. Determining the weaknesses and strong points of each system;
d. Finding out appropriate solutions and developing strategies on how to carry out necessary reforms;
recommends to the countries of the region conduct an in-depth study based on the guidelines issued by the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSTAT) for this purpose. This study should include a detailed national plan of action and a time table clearly prioritizing the short, medium and long term activities to be implemented to strengthen the systems.
2. The Workshop recognizes that sustained support from high level authorities of National Governments for the accelerated improvements of civil registration and vital statistics systems is of critical and vital importance. Further, the support of international organizations should be obtained to implement necessary reforms.
3. With that end in view, the Workshop requests the United Nations Statistical Commission, the Committee on Statistics of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and other concerned regional bodies to urge the Governments to assign high priority for accelerating the improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems in the countries of the region. ESCAP might wish to emphasize that support is needed at the very highest levels of the Government to promote improvements in these basic civil registration and vital statistics systems, as they are essential for administration and statistics, as well as for individuals, and which also play an important role in socio-economic development.
4. The Workshop further requests that international organizations promoting population and human development on a sustainable basis should also assign high priority and provide support to improve civil registration and vital statistics systems. Support should also be enlisted from non-governmental organizations, particularly those which are interested in issues of human development C such as issues relating to women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and other social population groups.
5. The Workshop recommends that measures be taken to produce printed and audio-visual publicity materials based on the experiences of a complete civil registration system, either national or sub-national, which may be used to raise awareness among the high level authorities of national governments on the importance of civil registration and vital statistics. The materials should be attractive and effective, and should illustrate the benefits and uses, with special focus on contemporary issues such as sustainable development and human development.
6. The Workshop recommends that UNSTAT, ESCAP, IIVRS and developed countries take appropriate measures in producing these materials to assist countries. It also encourages developing countries to take initiatives of their own. Recalling that an IIVRS Committee had produced and sent a report to high level government authorities in Asia in 1985, it is suggested that the report be re-circulated to the participants of this Workshop for further improvement and use.
7. The Workshop recommends that the ESCAP Committee on Statistics should declare 1995C1999 as the quinquennium for improving civil registration and vital statistics.
8. The Workshop noted that in many countries of the region, the local registrar is a part-time employee, often not under the direct authority of the central registration agency. This factor is thought to contribute to lack of attention to registration and vital statistics work. It therefore recommends that, where appropriate, incentives should be offered to those local registrars who accomplish full coverage of vital events.
9. In countries where registration is carried out purely by personnel employed by the registration authorities, it is suggested that the network be supplemented by health and medical care workers to make the system more accessible to the population. In such cases, training and instruction manuals for procedures in registration and vital statistics reporting need to be made available for all levels involved, and a system of motivation and reward to the health personnel be instituted to ensure uniformity and cooperation in carrying out their functions.
10. The Workshop noted that on numerous occasions, some Governments have recognized the importance of civil registration and vital statistics, but often the level of support for these functions has not been commensurate with that acknowledgement. The Workshop therefore urges the establishment of high level committees of users and producers in order to ensure that accelerated improvements take place and that civil registration and vital statistics functions receive adequate support from the Government. Similar committees may also be constituted at sub-national levels.
11. Further, these central high level committees should be headed by the Minister in-charge of civil registration, and the members should include heads of concerned departments C such as finance, health, population, education, statistics, vital statistics, justice, interior C as well as some other users outside the Government, including non-governmental organizations, associations of population, statistics, lawyers, etc. The central registration office should serve as the secretariat of the high-level committees.
12. While emphasizing the need for national efforts for any development programme activities leading to accelerated improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems, some Governments may find it difficult to secure the total financial and other resources that would be necessary. In such cases, requests may be made to international and bilateral donor agencies to supplement the available national resources. Advisory services for formulating these requests in the line of recommended formats should be provided by UNFPA, the UNFPA Country Support Teams, ESCAP or UNSTAT.
13. The Workshop observed that the last technical meeting on civil registration and vital statistics in Asia and the Pacific was conducted in 1985. However, there is a need to review and exchange information more frequently on progress made in accelerating improvements. It is recommended that such workshops/seminars should be convened once every three years.
14. It is recommended that this Workshop report should be published and distributed widely. It should also be submitted to the ESCAP Committee on Statistics for its consideration and endorsement in its next session in 1994 so that proper support can be given to the implementation of the Workshop recommendations in the countries of ESCAP region.
15. Noting the importance of exchange of information and experiences among countries at various levels of civil registration and vital statistics development, the Workshop encourages the exchange of personnel among developing and developed civil registration and vital statistics systems, as well as organizations of in-country training courses. The international funding agencies concerned with population and human development should also facilitate participation of such personnel in international training on civil registration and vital statistics.
16. Countries should consider the benefits of introducing modern technology for storage and retrieval of vital registration records and for the processing of vital statistics wherever it is not yet in operation.
17. The Workshop felt that with increasing computerization of civil registration, there is a need for software for data entry, tabulation and processing as well as for storage and retrieval of civil registration records. UNSTAT and ESCAP were urged to prepare and provide to countries the necessary software.
18. The Workshop felt that it would help the civil registration and vital statistics systems if handbooks or manuals are made available on various aspects, including the preservation of registration records and other topics mentioned in the international programme.
19. The Workshop considered that basic administrative changes may be needed, in some countries where more than one agency is responsible for civil registration. Several agencies may have overlapping functions, for improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems, and legislative approval might be required before introducing certain changes. Until such legal provisions are made, the needed improvement might be attempted through increased coordination and inter-agency committees.
20. Countries should review all methods and stages involved in collecting and processing civil registration records and vital statistics so as to speed up the production and response to the needs of important users in Government requiring such data to carry out and monitor ongoing health and other social sector programmes.
21. Countries should strive to educate and sensitize the potential consumers of data on the full utility of civil registration records and vital statistics.
22. The Workshop emphasized that vital statistics rates derived from sample surveys and by other indirect estimation techniques can only be short-term measures in the absence of a reliable civil registration system. To provide statistics at small area or micro-level can be no substitute for an efficient civil registration system. The workshop urged Governments to provide full support to the programme to improve the civil registration system.
23. The workshop recommended that countries in which civil registration is incomplete at the national level, should also consider making an evaluation and assessment study of the current status of the registration system at the small area or other micro-levels so that fertility and mortality indicators can be directly calculated for selected areas of complete registration. This effort will provide stimulus to other areas of the country with weak registration patterns to improve their levels of registration coverage and to demonstrate the utility of the data derived in this fashion.