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Arvind Nair

Am intrigued to see what was happening in the government and among the donors a few steps up from the commune. It's interesting that the chief is engaging in work that was ex ante not considered important by the community but was actually critical to their well being (therefore, lowering the chance that it was driven by a desire to boost popularity among constituents). Would be great to explore what changed/what reforms were introduced in the system that moved the village chief to actually go around to the community and describe the importance of birth registration.

Jaap van der Straaten

If only this could be "scaled", which probably is not the case.The truth is that the DHS survey data shows birth registration actually stagnant since 2005 (rates for the 0-59 months old): 2000-22%, 2005-54%, 2010-51%. The leap in the early 2000s can probably be attributed to a country-wide campaign of government, Plan and UNV. UNICEF's contribution was small at the time. But the government failed to improve its own central and countrywide support infrastructure-not so good governance, but also not so good project design. Additionally it is necessary to assess the quality of registration (registration rates address coverage only), i.e. we need to look at the records. If they are still traditional, i.e. paper-based, hand-written, those birth records may not be as permanent and good in content as one would want them to be.

Jaap van der Straaten, Civil Registration Centre for Development-CRC4D, The Hague, The Netherlands

Natalia Adler

Hi Matt,

Thank you for the feedback and suggestions! I will address some of the points raised but don’t want to monopolize your blog with this issue - so feel free to move on to other topics!

Worldwide UNICEF has been working with governments to boost birth registration rates, particularly focusing on the most remote areas, which may not always be captured under nationals averages. As you correctly pointed out, mobile units are often coupled with Communication for Development (C4D) interventions (e.g. plays) to (i) ensure a quick turnaround of certificates and (ii) raise awareness about the importance of the right to a name. In Nicaragua, these units are quite effective in reaching out indigenous communities living in isolated areas. Plus, we support the government in bringing all the necessary people along - from judges to the registrar officer. This helps children get their certificates immediately (not just a temporary one) and it’s often less costly than registering a child within the one year grace period (after the initial investment on the mobile unit).

As we further analyzed the situation - yes, using the Problem Driven Iterative Approach through the Ishikawa ‘why’ methodology - we found out that the demand-side aspect was still missing in those interventions. This is even clearer now that lack of aid may restrict the work of UNICEF in this area. Perhaps having a specific indicator on governance on this issue (to “teach to the test”) will help the topic become more of a priority (alas, among many).

In any case, I think we have yet to come up with a more sustainable way to trigger demand for birth registration, going beyond the issue of ICT (the new fad). In some ways, this needs to address the idea of incentives, which, in turn, need to respond to immediate needs of families. Perhaps cash-transfers? Vouchers? Conditionalities? I don’t think we have really experimenting with these ideas yet...

So, going back to the main topic, to what extent can we define (good) governance under this larger scope - from availability of services (of quality) to influencing demand? Michael Clemens (CGD) wrote an insightful piece about the limitations of policies (http://cgdev.org/files/2754_file_cgd_wp037.pdf). While he was referring to education, the message resonates with the issue of birth registration, “With limited demand, government can lead their young people to the fountain of education, but cannot make them drink.”

Natalia Adler


One more point. We're dabbling with the concept of co-creation, which I think fits this broader idea of governance. It borrows the concept from the private sector and includes the element of customer experience as a critical entry point of service delivery. That's why focusing on the demand-side is important. What do citizens ("customers") want? It's not enough to assume they want birth certificates if only they understand its importance. They need to see the value of it, as a product. Of course, this requires a different thinking on the part of governments. But there are increasingly more examples of this kind of interaction in the idea of open governance (a new definition?). And, in some ways, we need to extend the discussion about incentives (and accountabilities) to these front-line service providers as well.

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