The sustainable development goals (SDGs) aim under goal 16.9 “by 2030 provide legal identity for all including birth registration”. When adopting the SDGs in September 2015, the UN General Assembly acknowledged that means to prove legal identity are a global development issue and thus linked to development opportunities and outcomes.
Suggestions for indicators on legal identity currently focus on birth registration. Birth registration is the first formal recognition of an individual’s legal identity and the basis to obtain other documentation. Conversely, lack of birth registration creates a particularly high risk of statelessness for specific groups, including minority groups, and often inhibits children to gain access to public education. Birth registration is thus of vital importance to help to promote a legal identity for all – although measuring birth registration alone might be insufficient for monitoring progress on goal 16.9.
Cambodia already recognises the importance of civil registration. The General Department of Identification of the Ministry of Interior has, in collaboration with UNICEF, developed a National Strategic Plan for Identification that will guide acceleration of national efforts to increase the birth registration rate and identification in the country.1 Likewise, Cambodia supports the goals of the Asian and Pacific Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Decade 2015-2024, under which the ministers jointly agreed to give “particular attention and take measures to reduce all barriers to civil registration and to ensure the registration of vital events among hard-to-reach and marginalized populations”. Under the corresponding Regional Action Framework, the ministers also agreed the following steps, “to assess inequalities related to CRVS experienced by subgroups of the population, including among hard-to-reach and marginalized populations… and, where appropriate, set national targets to address those inequalities”.
Bearing in mind this background, the Minority Rights Organization (MIRO) organises a roundtable of a small number of key stakeholders to initiate a discussion about how to engage with SDG 16.9 in Cambodia. The focus is thereby on vulnerable, marginalised and hard-to-reach populations, including minority groups. In its previous work, MIRO has identified minority groups with no effective access to a legal identity, including birth registration. The roundtable will provide a venue to consider SDG 16.9 in the specific context of Cambodia, including identifying existing gaps, especially in relation to minority groups, and discussing strategies to address and reduce barriers to a legal identity.
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