A recent global study by the powerful World Bank has revealed statistics showing that more than 1.1 billion people on earth have no proof of identity, an indication that some 15 percent of the global population is being denied health and education services.
Many of these ‘unidentified’ people live in Africa and Asia, in areas plagued by poverty, epidemics and continuous armed conflict, and over one third of them are children, according to the World Bank’s “Identification for Development” (ID4D) program, as reported by NDTV.
According to ID4D program head Vyjayanti Desai, a primary reason that people remain unidentified is because of the geographical distance between populations in rural developing areas and government services which are typically housed in urban regions. Traveling from areas of the high-altitude Peruvian Amazon regions to government offices can take five days on foot and by boat, according to Carolina Trivelli, Peru’s former development minister.
Even if people make the trek to apply for assistance, people from poor outlying regions are often met with urban bureaucratic processes that are difficult, if not impossible, to understand and navigate.
Many families in developed areas are unaware that non-registration can cause many issues, including a denial of human rights and an increased chance of being offered for marriage or entering the workforce while underage.
United Nations representative Annie-Sophie Lois, in Geneva, believes that many people may avoid registration because there is monetary cost to declare births, while some families prefer not to be officially identified for safety and discrimination concerns.
“People fear to be identified from one ethnic group or from one nationality. The government has sometimes, sadly, preferences for some groups rather than another,” Peruvian minister Trivelli noted.
Many organizations are working to increase the registration of these “invisible ” people, through the use of digital technologies. These technologies “increase registration, provide legal documentation of vital events and produce statistics that are complete and accurate,” UN representative Lois claimed.
Plan International, a humanitarian organization, established an Every Child Counts campaign in 2005, which has since registered over 40 million children in 32 countries.The organization developed a mobile application that village leaders can use to inform the government of births and deaths in their communities.
“Digital birth registration systems not only provide children with a legal identity but also provides governments with a continuous source of information through the collection of data,” Lois said.
A clear data picture of developing nation populations is crucial for the United Nations, as well as other human rights entities, to allocate resources and aid around the globe.