A decade of action is under way to highlight the importance of accurate civil registration and statistics concerning births, deaths and causes of death to good governance, decision making and the protection of human rights and legal identity.
For Pacific Islands in particular, civil registration and vital statistics (CVRS) are essential for monitoring and responding to non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and respiratory illness.
The 10-year campaign from 2015-2025 and commitments to a CRVS Regional Action Framework were among the outcomes of an Asia-Pacific ministerial meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand, late last year.
The Vice Minister of Health for Fiji, H.E. Veena Bhatnagar, described the meeting as a “major milestone” given it was the first Asia-Pacific ministerial forum focused on CRVS.
Kiribati’s Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs, H.E. Tangariki Reete, highlighted the importance of timely vital statistics for national planning. 'We must record every person in our nation and we must keep up-to-the-minute statistics on our population and use this to plan for a future that is as yet uncertain,' Minister Reete said.
Despite the importance of such data and the significant strides made in recent years in the region, many Pacific Island countries and territories still struggle to achieve complete registration and to routinely publish reliable statistics.
Under the Regional Action Framework, countries will set national targets for improvement and build on work-in-progress under the Pacific Islands Vital Statistics Action Plan, which is supported by a range of development partners known as the Brisbane Accord Group, for which SPC hosts the secretariat.
The Minister of Health for the Cook Islands, H.E. Minister Nandi Glassie, said a key challenge for small island states in improving CRVS is ongoing access to technical support and training to build capacity in specialised areas such as certification of deaths, data analysis and report writing.
'We also face challenges in sharing information with neighbouring countries in order to obtain a complete picture of the vital events for the Cook Islands given that many births and deaths may occur off-island,' Minister Glassie said.
'Coordinated support, both in-country and at the regional level provided through the Pacific Vital Statistics Action Plan has been very important to the Cook Islands, and will continue to be critical as we move forward,' he said.
The strong multi-sectoral commitment made by the Pacific delegates to prioritise and invest in CRVS will help ensure governments have the information they need to make sound decisions for their populations.
As summarised by Samoa’s Minister of Public Enterprises, H.E. Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell: 'We have a lot of work to do in the next decade, but the work is worth it and crucial in our efforts to move forward.'
The meeting was hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and partners including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UN Population Fund, UN High Commission for Refugees and Plan International, with support from SPC.
It brought together senior officials and ministers from a range of sectors including health, statistics, planning, internal affairs and social affairs, and included representatives from 11 Pacific nations.,
It also builds on earlier commitments through the Pacific Ministers of Health Meetings (in 2011, 2013, and 2014) and the Heads of Planning and Statistics meeting in 2013.