How to measure "legal identity for all"?

A recent workshop hosted by OSJI and CRC4D took on questions around target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals: “By 2030 provide legal identity for all including birth registration.” Even with this target included in the new development agenda, there are many questions about how to implement changes and measure progress.

This blog post, written by Mariana Dahan and Jaap van der Straaten, summarizes some of the discussion at the workshop and highlights questions that are still remaining - such as the type and source of statistics to use in measurement, whether or not to track national identity documents in countries where coverage is higher or birth registration is not sufficient for access to services, and how to coordinate among different actors and levels.

What principles do you think should be taken into account in measuring progress on the legal identity target? Are there other indicators beyond the level of birth registration that might track progress at the global or national levels? What potential pitfalls do you see? How does measurement of legal identity relate to provision of nationality? What is the current debate at the national level in your country?

@staceycram @caitlinsislin @paulmccann @katiehill @mustafa_mahmoud @tobiaseigen @muktar @marenabrinkhurst @michaelotto @AngoteGertrude @Faith @peterchapman

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In Kenya, the debate has been to strengthen birth registration so as to capture all the necessary information including nationality of the child. Additionally, it has been proposed that birth registration should be made digital and connected with other registration processes through a unique identifier. There has been a proposal to merge registration providers under one “service” but with a lot of resistance.

In Kenya, there are two ways to acquire citizenship thus by birth and by registration. While those who acquired their citizenship through registration have certificate to prove they are citizens, citizen by birth have no distinct document to prove their nationality. Citizen by birth are forced to prove their nationality every time they apply for citizenship documents. Let me rest my case here so that I allow my colleges @mustafa_mahmoud @Purity_Wadegu @AngoteGertrude and others to add

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@Lore Do you believe birth registration is the solution to legal identity? Just curious bro…

@mustafa_mahmoud Birth registration if well done as required, can be the best solution to legal identity. It should be the entry point into the system. However, in our Kenyan context, it is still far from achieving this objective. Remember the discussions we have been having about prove of citizenship for Kenyan citizen by Birth.

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@Lore that’s a great point - birth registration is important and can be one step towards the goal of legal identity for all. But birth registration alone is not sufficient in many countries.

What does that mean for measurement of target 16.9 of the SDGs? How can measurement of this and other SDG targets account for variations across different contexts?

Any ideas @mustafa_mahmoud @staceycram @caitlinsislin @paulmccann @indirasarma @katiehill @peterchapman @faith or anyone else?

On the issue of other potential pitfalls, in the original advocacy letter to the UN we had the formulation

Ensure no one suffers from a lack of secure legal identity.

Because while we wanted to encourage the spread of secure legal identity, we didn’t want to encourage governments who currently don’t use identity requirements to discriminate in providing essential services, to start doing so and bring in new identity requirements as a result of the new Global Goals.

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In Kenya, through Statelessness working group; we have been having discussions with the relevant government department to ensure that our birth registration covers the basic information like Nationality.


@Lore I presume I am also part of the group and correct me if am wrong, the initial push was to capture nationality on the birth certificate but I hope you remember when we were told its next to impossible. Any way Allow me madam moderator @lauragoodwin to ask this uninformed question; Is legal identity all about documentation? What good will the document do if it further discriminates or subjects you to further profiling for example issuing refugees with birth certificates stamped “REFUGEE”

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I am just back from the Second Meeting on Global Indicators in Bangkok. For Target 16.9 the indicator “Percentage of children under 5 whose births have been registered with civil authority” was agreed by National Statistic Offices (NSOs) prior to the meeting to be “non controversial” and so was not discussed due to a lack of time. This does not mean that it has been “agreed” but it is safe to say there will be one indicator on birth registration - it could be revised slightly to “Percentage of children under 5 whose births have been registered with civil authority, disaggregated by age” - you can see this alternative and country responses to the suggestions here. You can also see individual country positions here under the documents tab.

We have put together the attached meta data table for the target - Meta Data Table for G16.9.docx (381.2 KB) you will see that there are nuances around how this should be tracked to account for minority populations and why tracking by year is important.

A big success of the Bangkok meeting was that government’s agreed to a global target for 16.6 “Proportion of population satisfied with their last experience of public services, disaggregated by service” so potentially this could be utilised to track the relevant government department issuing citizenship documents. This indicator is already collected through SHaSA - 9 countries, including Kenya, have piloted the Harmonised Module on Democratic Governance which looks at how people experience/perceive public services - I don’t believe it currently tracks legal identity but there could be an opportunity to use the methodology. Although we would have to ensure that non-citizens are given household surveys which could be tricky? Dr Robert Buluma has been leading on this work from inside Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and could be a good ally to talk through the implications of this? @Lore have the Statelessness working group been working with KNBS?

In terms of a wider global indicator, OHCHR proposed “percentage of adult population holding an identity document” and the Africa Group proposed “Percentage of the adult population possessing a national identity document. “Possession” needs to be established by actual verification of the ID.” There has however been some push back on both of these for the global level as there was concern some governments could use this to persecute certain groups, or use a lack of ID to deny services like you mention @mustafa_mahmoud. Depending on the context these could be taken up at the national/regional level with the right safeguards and monitoring in place. I am also attaching the Justice 2015 Indicators 16.9.docx paper that we put together - in this there are many more indicators, one which may be of interest is “The proportion of requests for identity documents fulfilled or rejected on stated grounds within a reasonable amount of time, defined as X days” - you would have to define the time period for the Kenyan context.

Some of the methodology for tracking these options needs to be worked out, but it is worth stressing that a lack of methodology should not set the level of ambition for indicators. Governments have committed to this and the UN has committed to supporting NSOs to improving data collection techniques.