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Uruguay strengthens civil registry

A $2.4 million IDB technical cooperation helped support the interconnection of the registry process in the country

Leandro Leutano is a baby from Uruguay who, a few hours after being born, was given an unique identification number that he will use for the rest of his life. Despite his young age, the Uruguayan authorities have thus guaranteed Leandro his right to an identity and access to other services, such as education and health care, through that same registration.

In recent years, Uruguay has gone further on the road to modernization moving away from paper registration, which entailed a long waiting time. This is how the new system works: the doctor sends the certificate of live birth to the National Bureau of Civil Records via the Internet, and at that point the newborn is given a unique identification number, which is informed to the hospital and to the Civil Registry to be included in the birth certificate.

“Identity is as much about asserting our rights as it is about exercising our obligations,” said Adolfo Orellano, General Director of Uruguay’s Civil Registry.

Orellano explained that in less than a day Leandro obtained his identification number, his birth certificate and his identity card without ever leaving Pereira Rosell hospital in Montevideo, the country’s capital. The hospital is home to the greatest number of births in Uruguay—almost 8,000 births per year, representing 17 percent of all Uruguay-born babies. Since December 2007, certificates of live birth are electronically issued and the unique identity number is delivered under the project.

The interconnection of civil records and citizen identification in Uruguay was supported by a $2.4 million grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). One of the biggest advantages of Uruguay compared with other Latin American countries is that 99 percent of all births take place at hospitals.

Priority issue

The project has also contributed to improve vital statistics in Uruguay. According to Mía Harbitz, IDB specialist in Registration, the generation of statistical data –especially vital statistics-- is key for a government to make the right decisions in planning and designing public policies and programs for country development projects.

In recent years, the IDB has fostered nearly 90 varied projects providing for registry creation or improvement as one of their main components. Among these registries, 38 have been completed and 52 are being created or will be in the years to come.

“A person with no identity is virtually forced to live in the shadow of society. There is a correlation between good governance and precise vital statistics, based on the activities of a civil registration entity, as a basis for public policies and programs,” said Harbitz.

Harbitz added that for several years the IDB has been developing knowledge products and different registry-related projects in various Latin American and Caribbean countries. The matter has become significantly important thanks to the approval of the IDB’s Ninth General Capital Increase (GCI-9) and the Sector Strategy for Institutions for Growth and Social Welfare (SIGS), which requires the IDB to support projects that will contribute to the increase in the percentage of children under 5 whose births have been properly registered.

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