Speech by the Honourable Minister for Tourism & Legal Affairs Ian Douglas on Wednesday 23rd January 2013, 10:30 am.
I am very pleased to address you on the occasion of the Press Launch of the "Catch up Campaign" of the Birth Registration Project in collaboration with the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children and supported by UNICEF.
I wish to thank everyone who has taken the time to be with us today. These are indeed exciting times and I am honoured to be a part of this important project which will impact significantly on the lives of our children and our adults as well. I also extend my deepest gratitude to UNICEF and the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children for supporting the region in this critical area of birth registration and the right to an identity. In this era, the global issues surrounding identity theft and international security have highlighted the weaknesses and critical gaps in our birth registration processes and it is critical that strenuous efforts are made to ensure that every child is registered and is in possession of a birth certificate.
In 2011, phase one of the Birth Registration Project was launched with support from UNICEF and several activities were successfully undertaken. These included:
- Training workshops for village council clerks on registration of children.
- Purchase of computer hardware and software for selected Village Council Offices to facilitate collection of registration information.
- Public Awareness and education on Birth Registration procedures
While a number of persons completed their birth registration process during phase one, there remains an unacceptable number whose registration is still incomplete.
UNICEF and the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children have recently funded a baseline study in this area which points to a number of areas for improvements in the birth registration process. Through this baseline research, we were able to identify critical gaps and weaknesses in our current registration processes as well as the number of persons without a proper or complete birth registration. As a result, we embrace with much enthusiasm the "Catch up" Campaign concept, which will assist our Registry in getting our house in order, so that we are well positioned for future reform initiatives, particularly the on-going major project on Establishing a Secure Civil Registry and Certificate Issuing System. This project being implemented by Canadian Bank Note will ensure that a secure data base of civil events (births, deaths, marriages and adoptions) is established at the Registry and certificates are printed on secure paper in a timely manner.
The Catch up Campaign must therefore be seen within the wider context of a more efficient, viable, modern registration process for Dominica. In December 2012, our Registrar and Executive Officer were part of a Study Visit of Registrars from the Windward Islands to Jamaica; this visit, which was coordinated by the FDCC focussed on the Jamaica Registry since this Registry has become the best practice model for the region. In Jamaica, not only are its citizens benefitting from the improved service levels and efficiency of the registration process, but the country benefits from an Agency that is actually financially viable. We are heartened by the success of Jamaica and hope to see similar success as we undertake our own reform. Our Registrar, Deputy Registrar, the registry staff have and collaborating Ministries, Departments and Institutions remained dedicated and focussed in regards to this project.
To this end, we encourage the media over the next few months of the campaign to help in getting the message out to the public, especially in rural areas: We want parents and guardians to check their children's birth certificates: Do they actually have one and if yes, is the mother's name on it?; is the father's name on it?; is the child's name on it? Are the names correctly spelt? Every child and adult needs to get a birth certificate or they need to have their certificates rectified and completed. This is important for a number of reasons, which the Registrar will share with you in his presentation.
We recognise that this programme cannot succeed without the active and constant support of every person in this country. In short, this is not just the business of the Ministry of Tourism and Legal Affairs or the Registry staff. It is the business and in the best interest of every Dominican that this programme and this initiative is a success. We will undertake vigorous advertising and campaigning but I implore every person watching or listening to spread the message about this initiative. Let us make it a success.
The world is changing around us. Improved methods of communication are bringing the world's population in closer contact and the issues of security of identity are very real. We owe it to ourselves and our children to ensure that their most basic right—a right to an identity—is preserved.
Once again, we thank UNICEF most sincerely for continuing to support this programme and we look forward to working with the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children on this Catch Up Campaign which will facilitate our nation's children in preserving their full identity and their complete birth certificates… which is their right.
Thank you and I extend best wishes for a successful Campaign.