The World Council of Churches will hold a webinar – or online seminar – next Monday (20 November) – World Children’s Day – to discuss the global campaign for birth registration. The participants will include the director for mission in the Anglican Communion, the Revd Canon John Kafwanka, who will explain the consequences he faced as somebody whose birth, in Zambia, wasn’t registered.
The development agency Plan say that every year, 51 million children worldwide are not registered. “Without a birth certificate, they are invisible and become vulnerable to sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour, forced conscription, illegal detention, and child marriage,” they say.
The campaign for birth registration is one of the priorities for the International Anglican Family Network (IAFN). “Under-registration of births continues to marginalise millions of children, excluding them from the benefits and protection of citizenship,” they said. “So we are promoting the role of churches in helping families to overcome the obstacles to birth registration.”
Earlier this year, the World Council of Churches published the “Churches’ Commitments to Children”, after a period of consultation. The commitments include the promotion of child protection through church communities, including advocacy for children’s and adolescents’ rights through birth registration. Monday’s seminar is part of the WCC’s response to this commitment.
In addition to Canon John Kafwanka, the WCC will include contributions from Lena Haap from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Regugees (UNHCR), who will talk about how crucial birth registration is for human rights; and how migrants and stateless populations are especially vulnerable. Kisten Wenz, from Unicef – the United Nations’ Children’s Fund – will discuss the importance of birth, death and marriage registration and certification; and the Revd Dr Kortu Brown from the Liberian Council of Churches will talk about lessons learned from the campaign undertaken by churches in Libera.
The Revd Terrie Robinson, director for women in church and society at the Anglican Communion Office, will convene the Webinar. “Every child has the right to a name and nationality,” she said. “This right is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties; but the births of nearly 230 million children under the age of five have never been registered.
“This is a gospel issue. Under-registration marginalises millions of children and adults and excludes them from the benefits and protection of citizenship. Churches have a vital role to play in raising awareness of the issue and helping families to overcome obstacles to birth registration.”
The webinar will take place between 2.00 pm and 3.30 pm CET (1.00 pm to 2.30pm GMT).