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Consultant for Birth Registration Strategy Development – UNICEF – Peshawar,Pakistan

The lead consultant should have at least master or advance degree in social sciences.1
Proven experience, of at least 10 years, in the field of policy and strategy development in relation to child rights and specifically to child protection programs and services with reputable research and academic institutions, public and/or non-governmental organisations, international NGOs and/or UN agencies. The lead consultant should have at least master or advance degree in social sciences. Proven knowledge and trainings in policy and strategy development preferably in Child Rights in developing countries. Proven knowledge of the government administrative setups and public services.

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Activity: Development of the Birth Registration Strategies for Local Government Department for KP and Local Government Department FATA.

Geographic Focus: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)

Purpose of assignment:

Background: Birth registration is one of the most fundamental and basic human rights of a child. The Convention on the Rights of the Children (Article 7) categorically states and makes it binding upon the States Parties, ratified by Pakistan on 19 November 1990, to undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for a child to be registered immediately after birth and have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents. In its Concluding Observations on the third and fourth country periodic reports in November 2009, submitted by Pakistan in 2007, the Committee on the Rights of the Child notes that while many efforts have been implemented by the Government of Pakistan to promote timely birth registration, still more than 70 per cent of children are not registered at birth, especially girls, children belonging to a religious or minority group, refugee children and children living in rural areas. It, further, recommends that full implementation of measures are needed to remove structural obstacles to birth registration, launch a mass cost-free birth registration campaign and simplify the procedures for birth registration in order to cover all persons in the country, regardless of sex, religion, status or nationality, in accordance with article 7 of the Convention.

Accordingly, UNICEF Child Protection Section, in consultation and coordination with Local Government Departments and other relevant stakeholders, has identified birth registration as one of the priority action areas for supporting national and provincial child protection systems in Pakistan. UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy, also, identifies birth registration as one of the priority action areas for supporting national child protection systems. The Child Protection Strategy recognizes birth registration as a human right, which can strengthen children’s access to legal protection and basic social services.
The importance of birth registration stems from its legal, procedural and statistical needs. An unregistered birth denies the legal right to that child to an official identity, a recognized name and nationality. Even though there are no uniform national guidelines in Pakistan requiring parents to produce a birth certificate at the time of school enrolment, lack of birth registration is believed to be keeping significant numbers of rural poor children out of school. It may also be restricting their access to social protection programmes linked to the provision of health prevention and health care services, including immunization. A child whose birth is not registered does not have even the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides in Pakistan against early and forced marriage, child labour and employment in hazardous industries, recruitment in the armed forces, illegal adoption and trafficking. Birth registration can help in ensuring that children are enrolled in schools at the right age. It helps enforcing laws relating to minimum age for employment and allows children to claim their rightful inheritance. Birth registration ensures that children who come in conflict with the law are treated as juveniles, given special protection and not treated as adults. It can help separated children and those who are without any adult care to get reunited to their families. In later life, the unregistered child is unable to get national identification card, a passport, open a bank account, obtain credit and find employment. For any government, birth registration is important in terms of effective policymaking and planning for provision of services to the village level. Effective registration of births will allow Pakistan to measure trends, differentiate among population groups as per their needs and identify geographic, social and gender disparities.

The status of birth registration in KP and FATA, however, is far less than satisfactory. In KP, birth registration is only 20% whereas in FATA it is as low as 1% (MICS Report KP and FATA). Birth registration system in Pakistan, as a whole, is marred by several deficiencies, which include, but are not limited to, inhibitive social norms; dichotomous and weak policy and legislative framework resulting in overlapping mandates; feeble, obsolete and in some cases non-existent service delivery infrastructure/apparatus; inadequate resource and budgetary allocation; inefficient management and coordination amongst different players of birth registration system; lack of awareness among the general public as well as officials under whose jurisdiction birth registration comes; difficulty in physically accessing delivery points; prohibitive direct and indirect costs associated with birth registration, and perceived, apparent, lack of social and political utility of birth registration. Importantly, as reflected in various legislative and administrative steps taken in recent past on the universalization of birth registration in Pakistan, and particularly in KP and FATA, there is strong recognition among concerned policy and decision-making circles for taking all necessary measures to significantly improve registration rates. UNICEF has been working with NADRA and local governments, including civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to increase knowledge on the importance of birth registration and strengthen support for birth registration through technical backstopping of concerned government functionaries, placing special emphasis on vulnerable and excluded groups.

Needless to say that there is an imminent urgency for a clear shift in the approach towards universal birth registration in Pakistan. The project-based approach has achieved little in this regard. UNICEF has been successful in generating some evidenced from the field and building consensus with the Local Government Departments in KP and FATA and other relevant stakeholders that the vision to accomplish ‘universal child birth registration’ requires a system strengthening and institutional approach. This would only be possible if the governments in KP and FATA will have coherent and concerted strategies for strengthening the birth registrations systems in these specific contexts. Moving towards it, the Local Government KP officially notified the establishment of Working Group on Birth Registration in 2012, chaired by Secretary Local Government. Its members include the departments of Health, Education, Probation, Social Welfare, Child Protection and Welfare Commission and NADRA. Similarly, the Working Group on Birth Registration in FATA was notified the same year, with the Secretary Social Sectors Departments as its chairman.

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