Many people take their birth certificate for granted. It is an unremarkable bureaucratic certainty in many lives, tucked away in a drawer or filing cabinet until it’s needed to obtain a driver’s license or passport, or to register for marriage or divorce. Rarely do the bearers of these documents appreciate them for what they truly represent — a fundamental human right to a name, a document that establishes family ties and relationships, and an important tool for social protection.
In the developing world, the absence of a birth certificate can be seen and felt in powerful ways. The births of approximately 230 million children under age five — 35% of the world's total — are unrecorded. Without a birth certificate, individuals are easily deprived of their rights.