Desmond Tutu in New York urging registration of all children

The United Nations is supporting a new campaign urging governments around the world to register every newborn child, and it’s getting help from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

”It is, in a very real sense, a matter of life and death,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said at a New York news conference. ”The unregistered child is a nonentity. The unregistered child does not exist. How can we live with the knowledge that we could have made a difference?”

The campaign, called “Write me down, make me real,” is backed by UNICEF and calls on governments to record the estimated 48 million children whose births go unregistered each year.

Sixteen years ago, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child told countries to register every baby immediately after birth. Every nation has ratified the convention except two, the U.S. and Somalia.

The aid agency Plan USA has released a report titled ”Universal Birth Registration – a Universal Responsibility.” While it acknowledges it’s impossible to know for sure how many unregistered children actually exist because they’re not counted, estimates have suggested the figure is over half a billion.

It lists percentages of children not registered by region:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 71 percent

  • South Asia: 63 percent

  • Middle East and North Africa: 31 percent

  • Asia Pacific: 22 percent

  • Latin America/Caribbean: 14 percent

  • CEE/CIS and Baltic states: 10 percent

  • Industrialized countries: 2 percent

    “Governments worldwide are failing the world’s children, as millions of youngsters without a birth certificate find it very difficult to prove their age or nationality,” said Thomas Miller, Plan’s chief executive. “Children without birth certificates are far more likely to find themselves without access to education, health care, civil rights or inheritance laws.

    “And parents whose children go missing during disasters like the tsunami or because they are abducted by traffickers may even be unable to get help with tracing their sons or daughters because they cannot prove the age of their children – or in many cases that their children even exist.”

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