A civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system is one that connects relevant data from the civil registry and the health information system for the purpose of producing vital statistics.
When countries maintain effective civil registration and vital statistics systems, everyone benefits.
Why do civil registration and vital statistics matter?
Universal registration of births, deaths (and their causes), marriages, and divorces, combined with issuing civil status certificates, ensures that individuals can prove their own identities to access basic public services – health, education, and social protection – and exercise their rights, including the right to vote or to claim inheritance.
When countries can generate and analyze real-time statistics, they can properly plan for and deliver priority development programs. Disaggregated by sex and other relevant characteristics, statistical data drawn from civil registers is especially important to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and monitor progress toward achieving health, gender equality, and other Sustainable Development Goals.
Why should I care about CRVS?
If your birth is not registered, you don’t have a birth certificate. Without proof of age or identity, you risk being denied access to schooling, health care, employment, or the right to vote. You may not be able to open a bank account or take out a loan. If your child’s birth is not registered, it becomes difficult to protect them from child labour, sexual exploitation, and child marriage. Taken together, birth, marriage, and death registration are critical for you to exercise your right to inheritance when a parent or spouse dies.
Why should my government care?
Access to accurate, reliable, and timely statistical data disaggregated by sex and other relevant characteristics at the lowest administrative level is critical for government planning and policy-making. It is needed to measure progress over time to ensure that development programs are responding to the social, health, economic, and education needs of the populations they serve. Information from a well-functioning CRVS system can also help governments effectively respond to emergency and natural disaster events.
- What is civil registration?The United Nations defines civil registration as: “The continuous, permanent, compulsory, and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events (live births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, and divorces) and other civil status events pertaining to the population as provided by decree, law or regulation, in accordance with the legal requirements in each country.”
- What are vital statistics?The United Nations defines vital statistics as: “The collection of statistics on vital events in a lifetime of a person as well as relevant characteristics of the events themselves and of the person and persons concerned. Vital statistics provide crucial and critical information on the population in a country.”
In many regions of the world, births, marriages, divorces, and deaths are not universally or routinely registered, and the causes of death are not documented. This means that people lack the documents they need to prove their identity to get access to basic services. Women and girls face unique barriers, including laws in some countries that require the signature of a husband or father on official registration documents.
Research by the World Bank shows that more than 1.1 billion people worldwide are unable to prove who they are.
Obstacles to a functioning CRVS system
Institutional barriers common to civil registration and vital statistics include:
- Outdated and inadequate legal frameworks governing civil registration and vital statistics
- Lack of political vision
- Lack of coordination between government departments
- Human resource skills and capacity gaps
- Inadequate operating budgets
Social barriers that may hinder timely registration include:
- People do not understand the importance of birth and death registration
- Linguistic differences and cultural practices are different from a country’s predominant language and practices
- Stigma associated with teen births, or single mothers
- Socio-cultural practices around death
- Legislation contradicts social norms
- Direct and indirect costs associated with registration, such as fees and travel
These are challenges we are seeking to address through research, knowledge exchange, and capacity building support for countries wishing to develop strong CRVS systems.
Global CRVS efforts
In September 2015, United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) universally apply to all, and countries around the world are establishing national frameworks to achieve them. Timely data collection based on well-functioning CRVS systems is key for monitoring SDG progress.
A number of international and regional organizations have come together to create the Global Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Group. Together, we are forging stronger alliances to support national CRVS systems by collaborating on initiatives and regularly exchanging information. We are working to implement the Global Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Scaling Up Investment Plan.
Our group’s goal? To contribute to the universal civil registration of births, deaths, marriages, and other vital events, and access to legal proof of registration for all individuals by 2030. This calls for
- strengthening national institutions
- establishing and updating international standards and tools
- building the evidence base with implementation research
For a list of development partners with mandates and activities to support CRVS systems strengthening, see the Global Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Group membership.
CRVS for global health
The international health community recognizes the important role that CRVS systems play in identifying priority health needs. They also provide the tools to measure the results of health investments.
The Global Financing Facility, housed at the World Bank, is helping countries mobilize financing from public and private sources to improve health outcomes. It encourages CRVS systems strengthening so that countries can benefit from reliable, accurate, real-time data at the lowest administrative level.
The Centre of Excellence for CRVS Systems is a strategic partner, helping developing countries leverage the support of the Global Financing Facility. We offer advice and guidance to eligible countries to plan, develop, and implement CRVS priorities within the framework of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health investment cases.
Expert Talks: Understanding CRVS Systems
What are CRVS systems and why do they matter?
How can we enhance and improve them for better results?
And what can we learn from other countries’ experiences?
Our video series explores all these questions—and offers valuable insights.