Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity
to make this Statement. Mr. Speaker, the Statement is about a subject matter that hardly receives public attention. It is the issue of Achieving Universal Birth Registration -- a Universal Right. The Statement is to mark the launching of a global campaign on universal birth registration.
Mr. Speaker, on the 22nd day of February 2005, Archbishop Desmond Tutu launched a global campaign led by Plan International at the United Nations in New York aimed at achieving universal birth registration. I wish to add my voice to this campaign. And in adding my voice, I wish to emphasize the importance of universal birth registration.
Mr. Speaker, lack of birth registration is a violation of the child's inalienable human right to be given an identity at birth and to be regarded as part of society. The right to be registered immediately after birth and to acquire a name and a nationality is recognized under article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Ghana is a signatory.
Registration is a critical measure to secure the recognition of every person before the law and to safeguard the protection of his or her individual rights. Proof of age is an important first step in protecting children from age-related abuse, including exploitation, child labour and early marriage.
Without a strong civil registration system, it is virtually impossible to plan or implement effective development strategies. Unregistered children who do not show up in the data are often overlooked in social development planning. They are completely invisible when important policy and budget decisions are made. Registration brings children to the notice of decision-makers.
Mr. Speaker, Ghana introduced the
Registration of Births and Deaths Act (Act 301) in 1965 and was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in February 1990. With the introduction of the above, it was envisaged that the geographical and content coverage of births and deaths registration would expand with time. However, after 39 years of operation, the coverage of births and deaths registration in Ghana is still very low.
Mr. Speaker, the statistics for 2003 show that in Ghana 28 per cent of children were registered at birth. As at September 2004, it is claimed that the percentage had risen to 49 per cent.
Mr. Speaker, what are the challenges? There are major challenges to effect birth registration in Ghana. These include staffing constraints, inadequate funding, lack of logistics, lack of motivation, limited access and lack of knowledge of the importance of birth registration, and multiple registration.
Lack of political will is at the root of all these obstacles. Lack of political will leads to low priority being given to the sector. This in turn means that adequate legislative framework may not exist. When legislation does not exist, there is likely to be weak enforcement and inadequate budgetary allocation, insufficient and poorly-trained personnel, ill-equipped offices and shortages of materials needed to get the job done.
Mr. Speaker, it means that the responsible authority would not ensure the supply of birth registration facilities, promote the necessary information and awareness campaigns or stimulate public demand for such services. Mr. Speaker, we as a country need to meet these challenges.
The difficulties confronting Ghana in this direction have attracted the interest of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Plan International. Plan International is presently collaborating with the Department of Births and Deaths Registry to devise convenient strategies to reach and register newly-born babies at birth at the community level and in a bid to increase national coverage.
To this end a scheme has been developed to be piloted in six commu- nities in four districts. Mr. Speaker, the target is to improve birth registration coverage from 28 per cent to 60 per cent by the end of 2006, and 80 per cent by the end of 2007. To this end, Plan International has committed itself to providing enormous financial and material support to the Department of Birth and Death Registry, which is a state department.
Mr. Speaker, this campaign to increase birth registration in Ghana is part of a global campaign to achieve universal birth registration being spearheaded by Plan International. On the 22nd day of February 2005, Archbishop Desmond Tutu launched this global campaign led by Plan International at the United Nations in New York. And in adding my voice, however, I wish to make a number of recommenda-tions regarding the conduct of the campaign in Ghana --
Mr. Speaker, the campaign in Ghana should involve all levels of society, including local com- munities;
The campaign should gain the commitment of all stakeholders by raising awareness of the importance of birth registration as a child right