Nadja Kassam, Child Protection Specialist Birth Registration, UNICEF talks about birth registration and how it protects children. The proof of identity, a piece of paper, is a child’s right. They have shifted to action.
Civil registration and vital statistics is a continuum and is a governance tool, enabling planning and population development.
They have moved from laborious paper based systems to SMS messaging and technology to enable documentation.
Story from Ukraine: 16 year old girl was enticed to Turkey to a job in a department store. She was put into a brothel and forced into prostitution. She was arrested when the brothel was raided. The power of her identity and the assistance of NGOs enabled her to prove she was underage, and escape prosecution and return home.
The power of the birth certificate enabled one underage girl in India to approach her village leader, show her age, and escape forced marriage. The leader spoke up for her, and she continued her education rather than being married.
The last girl/ boy is a question that Nadya Kassam raises: how do we reach the Peruvian boy in a remote community?
There were multiple parents coming forward to claim the same child in a hurricane. To prove parentage, DNA tests had to be carried out.
Issue of privacy is raised on how to keep each child’s data private.
Andrew Paynter, Senior Policy Advisor, UNHCR, says there are 10 million stateless people – a person not considered a national by any state. The effects are exclusion from education, health and ability to travel, even within a country.
The causes are discrimination for particular ethnic minority groups, gender etc.
The concept of statelessness and identity are different, but have much of the same impacts. Lacking documentation does not make one stateless, but it can make him/ her unrecognised to governments.
Refugee registration and recording of bio data (finger printing, iris scanning) is a critical protection tool to inform UNHCR who the most vulnerable refugees are; the unaccompanied children etc. Bio data enables safeguards, e.g. preventing individuals from coming up twice for food.
Issue of identity incredibly relevant to the work of UNHCR.
Ruchira Gupta, an Indian sex trafficking abolitionist, journalist and activist talks about Lucy Liu’s important film, Meena, about the issues of modern day slavery and prostitution. The issue for Meena’s freedom was trying to get her children free; there was no proof of their identity or heritage.
When they were finally free, they could not get access to education or healthcare – they lacked an identity. The family cannot join us at the UN Summit today as they do not have passports. They are still being socially excluded because of the issue of identity.
Thousands of girls cannot get any services as they have no identity, and they fear approaching help as they do not want to be repatriated into the same situation of forced prostitution.
Traffickers, slave owners, often take the identities (passports, birth certificates) from the girls they hold and keep them in forced servitude. When girls go missing, how do we ensure that every girl is accounted for? Every girl must be linked to services, but they often do not know how to use the services.
Ruchira Gupta asks us to close our eyes and think of the last girl- in India she is a low caste, in America she is a girl from an ethnic minority, she is a teenager, she has no choice over her education, her chores or play, her diet or what she wears. That is the last girl who must be reached by identity; she is the most marginalised.
On why Gandhi travels third class:
Because there is no fourth class.
Ruchira Gupta, UN Ambassador, talks of the importance of the SDGs. This enables the world population to prosper whilst sustaining the global environment. All UN members signed up to the SDGs.
For the UK, one key objective was to ensure action against corruption and accountability of organisations are embedded in the SDGs.
Some 50m children are born annually without a legal identity. They are susceptible to marginalisation. These children will not get access to good schools, to justice, not even to a bank account.
Three themes of new SDGs:
- Leave no one behind;
- Wide range of stakeholders to be involved;
- Technological innovation will be key.
Christian Wenaweser, UN Ambassador, says that 1.5bn people do not have a legal identity, a pre-requisite for social inclusion. That means 1.5bn people have no access to social protections and benefits such as health and welfare, education, finance systems, voting rights. This leaves them completely exposed to exploitation, and wholly vulnerable.
Sarah Mendelson, UN Ambassador, suggests that providing an identity to all will be a force in combatting human trafficking.
In the fight against modern slavery, technology can be a double edged sword.
The Internet can be used by traffickers to advertise the sale of humans, build networks, carry out transactions anonymously.
Governments are turning the tables on the traffickers and using technology to fight human trafficking. Prevention can be achieved through technology, e.g. SMS alerts against trafficking, tracking payments etc. Sarah Mendelson implores technologists to design their products with survivors in mind.
The plan is to get as many member states to demand more from their supply chains, and to ensure that modern day slavery is absent from their commodities. The Digital Partnership launches in several weeks.
We are here at the UNHQ in New York, and as the summit room fills up it begs the question, why does this matter?
Around the world, a quarter of the population do not have an identity. No passport, no birth certificate. Can you image the implications? That excludes a quarter of the world from having a bank account, getting formal employment, and moving around the world.
The UN has agreed sustainable development goals, one of which is a commitment to give a legal identity to every person. The impact will be multiplied. Today, the UN Summit is tasked with finding the solution. Stay tuned for live blog updates.