Cameroon mayors resolve to make birth registration a top priority

Biometric Update | Local and city council mayors in Cameroon have signed a charter which reflects their desire to take birth registration efforts more seriously in all their respective municipalities. The mayors took the resolve at the end of a recent two-day forum in Yaounde which laid bare all facets of problems hindering civil status registration in the country.

The document signed by the mayors also contains proposals on which some action is required by the government in order to improve birth registration figures in the country.

The Yaounde forum – the first of its kind – brought together all the 374 local and city council mayors, heads of secondary civil status registration centers, civil status registration secretaries, civil society actors involved in citizen action, representatives from government ministries, departments and agencies, as well as those of financial and technical partners supporting the government of Cameroon in civil status registration matters.

Speakers during the forum included Decentralisation and Local Development Minister Georges Elanga Obam, UNICEF country representative for Cameroon Nadine Perault and a UNICEF consultant and CRVS expert, Cornelius Williams. They all stressed the importance of birth registration, saying it is the starting point of a human being’s legal existence. They said they hope the forum will provide the necessary impetus for joint action that will prioritize birth registration and make Cameroon an exemplary country in the domain within the central African sub region.

Some proposals contained in the charter, put together during several workshops that characterized the forum, include the need to extend the legal deadline for birth registration beyond the current 90 days from the date of birth of a child, the need to increase financial resources to councils and for government to simplify birth registration requirements and the entire process itself, among other issues.

At the end of the forum, Perault said: “[I’m] inspired by the commitment of Cameroon mayors at the first birth registration forum. Their dedication to improving birth registration systems will help provide children with a strong foundation for a better future.”

She added: “The mayors’ forum on birth registration in Cameroon marks a significant step towards achieving universal birth registration. Let’s amplify our efforts to ensure that no child is left without a legal identity. We have the power to make 2024 the year of birth registration in Cameroon.”

On the commitment taken by the mayors, Elanga Obam remarked: “You have made strong commitments in the charter you just signed. You will be judged by the results achieved through efforts to reduce the seven million Cameroonians without legal identity. History will judge you.”

UNICEF’s ‘My Name, My Identity, My Right’ campaign

UNICEF is a leading partner of the government of Cameroon when it comes to birth registration. The Cameron country office used the national forum of mayors as a premise to launch a special campaign aimed at increasing the number of children with birth certificates in the country.

The campaign, which targets children in all the ten administrative regions of Cameroon, is tagged “My Name, My Identity, My Right,” a part of an initiative launched by UNICEF country offices in West and Central Africa in Cote d’Ivoire early this year.

UNICEF Cameroon says it has decided to amplify the campaign by “inviting the country’s 374 mayors to adopt concrete solutions to ensure that all children in Cameroon are registered, a right enshrined in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.”

“Today, despite the efforts made by the Cameroonian authorities, it is estimated that one in three children under the age of five living in Cameroon is deprived of a legal identity. In 2023, out of 566,680 births in health facilities, only 248,013 were registered, representing 43.77 percent.”

The UN agency has also announced that as part of efforts to make the exercise successful, it will reward the ten best councils that register the highest number of children within the campaign window.

The special issuance campaign is expected to run till November and will end with a ceremony on November 20, to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child during which the ten best municipalities, rated on the basis of birth registration points, will be rewarded.

The first national forum on birth registration in Cameroon took place on the heels of information that about seven million citizens – almost a third of the population – do not own a birth certificate.

The problems rocking Cameroon’s birth registration landscape were also profoundly discussed in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr Joseph Dion Ngute on Thursday April 25 during which he instructed government ministries involved in a reform plan of the sector to accelerate their pace of work.

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