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2007.09.04

* UNICEF: At regional forum, Latin America unites to recognize children’s first right – to identity
* 29 Aug 2007

How do you help the millions of children whose legal identity is not recognized because there is no record of their birth?

Governments, the UN and civil society organizations from across the Latin American region are meeting here in Asuncion, Paraguay, to answer that difficult question. Throughout Latin America, one in six children do not legally exist because they were not registered at birth. That means a staggering two million of the 11 million births in Latin America are not registered.
Dr. Derlis Cespedes Aguilera, the Paraguayan Minister of Justice and Employment, says, "What are the implications for the children not being registered? Not being registered puts the children in a very vulnerable situation. And it keeps them from getting protection from the state. When children are not registered, they are denied the identity of a nation and their rights. Not having an identity, the child is exposed to many forms of abuse and exploitation. Guaranteeing their identity allows them to access education, and also to become legal citizens with full rights to public office, education and their financial well-being, including the use of banks."

The three-day event is called the 1st Latin American Regional Conference on Birth Registration and the Right to Identity. It was organized by the government of Paraguay, UNICEF, Organization of American States, and Plan International.
One of the challenges is to register indigenous children, while protecting and respecting their culture, says Rosa Maria Ortiz, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
"An indigenous child doesn't need to only obtain an identity – they need THEIR identity, linked with their parents, their language and their culture," she says. "When the parents decide it's the right moment."
The conference is designed to achieve consensus and form the basis of regional and national plans that will guarantee free, universal and timely birth registration for all children by 2015.

Nils Kastberg, Director of the Regional Office of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, says, "When we leave this conference, let's each be an ambassador for change. Let's dedicate the necessary resources. This is not a topic of charity. This is a fundamental right of the state to civilize and establish an identity, and we should do it from birth."
As the effort to protect the "invisible" children moves forward... the conference will be replicated for the Caribbean Region next year.

This is Thomas Nybo reporting for UNICEF Television in Asuncion, Paraguay. Unite for children.

 

 

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