Civil registration systems

Civil registration is defined as the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population as provided through decree or regulation in accordance with the legal requirements of a country. Civil registration is carried out primarily for the purpose of establishing the legal documents provided by the law. These records are also a main source of vital statistics. Complete coverage, accuracy and timeliness of civil registration are essential for quality vital statistics.

A civil registration system refers to all institutional, legal, technical settings needed to perform the civil registration functions in a technical, sound, coordinated, and standardized manner throughout the country, taking into account cultural and social circumstances particular to the country.

A major goal of the vital statistics programme in the United Nations Statistics Division is to assist countries in developing capacities to operate and maintain the fundamental systems of civil registration and vital statistics in a coordinated manner.

In 1968, the Economic and Social Council approved, in its resolution 1307 (XLIV), the World Programme for the Improvement of Vital Statistics.  This Programme aimed to improve vital statistics through various means such as issuing recommendations and guidelines, organizing seminars for exchange of experience, providing trainings and technical assistance and disseminating statistics.

As a follow-up to the implementation of the Programme, a progress report was prepared by the Secretary General in 1981 on civil registration and vital statistics, describing activities carried out at the country, regional and international levels in connexion with the World Programme for the Improvement of Vital Statistics (E/CN.3/547).  Subsequently, a review and evaluation of the technical assistance projects carried out under the Programme was conducted in 1993.

In 1991, the Statistical Commission adopted the International Programme for Accelerating the Improvement of Vital Statistics and Civil Registration Systems (See Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1991, Supplement No. 5, (E/1991/25), para. 118). The Programme provides technical guidance and support for countries to undertake programmes to strengthen their civil registration and vital statistics systems, with an emphasis on national efforts. The Programme aims to employ a number of new strategies designed to overcome the weaknesses of earlier technical cooperation efforts in the field of civil registration and vital statistics in order to allow sustainability nationally.

The activities under the Programme refer to:

A progress report was prepared in 1993 (E/CN.3/1993/12, sect. II).