The Ministry of Justice has recently co-chaired with the United Nations Population Fund Country Office in Vietnam (UNFPA Vietnam) to organize the review of the six-year implementation of the Civil Status Law. On this occasion, Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative for Vietnam, grants Vietnam Law & Legal Forum magazine an interview on the results Vietnam has achieved in civil status work as well as things that should be done in the future for fulfilling the country’s set goals.
|Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative for Vietnam, speaks at the conference on the review of the six-year implementation of the Civil Status Law__Photo: UNFPA
The Civil Status Law was passed by the 13th National Assembly in 2014 and enacted in January 1, 2016. This was the first time Vietnamese legislators had issued a separate law to govern civil status work. One year after the promulgation of the Law, the Prime Minister approved the National Action Program on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics for the 2017-24 period. This is considered the country’s long stride in improving the legal framework for civil status work, facilitating citizens’ registration of vital events, thus contributing to better protecting their legitimate rights and interests.
May you share with us some of your thoughts about the results Vietnam has achieved so far in civil status work?
First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Justice for acting as the lead Government Ministry to ensure the implementation of the Civil Status Law. Since the Law took effective in 2016, encouraging results have been achieved and documented. These include the finalization of legal documents detailing the implementation of the Law, modernization of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS), and the promotion of online civil registration. The Ministry has taken a lot of efforts and actions to strengthen cross-sector coordination, and to increase the registration rates for vital events of people’s life. A national e-database on vital statistics and the shared software for civil registration and vital statistics registration and management was developed. As a result, a personal ID is being issued right after a childbirth registration. Efforts have also been made to reform administrative procedures to simplify civil status registration.
Vietnamese citizens can now perform their civil status registration at their convenience. They may submit dossiers of civil status directly to the civil status registration agency or send them by post, or they may register through the online civil status registration system. Currently, all provinces and cities have online birth registration, while 62 out of 63 provinces and cities have online death registration and 62 out of 63 provinces and cities have the online marriage registration system. Almost all the provinces and cities across the country have the Provincial Administrative Procedure Information System connected with the Ministry of Justice's electronic civil status registration and management system, thus contributing to synchronizing and unifying data as well as reducing the workload and time for civil servants.
Also in 2014, Vietnam participated in the First Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Asia and the Pacific where attendants adopted the Ministerial Declaration to “Get Every One in the Picture” and shared the vision that “all people in Asia and the Pacific will benefit from universal and responsive CRVS systems facilitating the realization of their rights and supporting good governance, health and development.” Later in 2021, at the Second Ministerial Conference on CRVS, Vietnam, together with other countries, continued to commit to “building a more resilience future with inclusive CRVS in Asia and the Pacific”.
In your opinion, how Vietnam’s legal system in general and the Civil Status Law in particular facilitated the country’s fulfillments of commitments on CRVS? Are there any legal loopholes that should be removed to improve civil status work in Vietnam?
The implementation of the Civil Status Law and the 2017-2024 National Action Program on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) plays an important role in modernizing CRVS, which helps Vietnam honor its commitments to “building a more resilience future with inclusive CRVS in Asia and the Pacific” as declared in the Second Ministerial Conference on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific, held in Bangkok in 2021.
A well-functioning CRVS system in Vietnam can protect people’s rights and benefits including health and education. A streamlined registration mechanism across the life such as births, marriages, deaths, and other vital events of life must be registered and documented by the legal authorities, so that people can access and benefit from public services such as education, health care, employment, social protection, and other public services. Civil status registration is also particularly important for women, creating a framework for addressing gender inequalities.
In addition, accurate and complete vital statistics - derived from civil registration records - are critical to develop national and local policies and to monitor and assess development outcomes, especially in the analysis of ensuring no one is left behind. For example, timely statistics disaggregated by causes of death and other demographic characteristics are crucial to design, implement and monitor public health policies as well as to detect emerging health crises, such as COVID-19.
Vietnam has so far been successful in capturing almost all birth records in the system, but much more attention should be paid to recording deaths per international death identification codes, so that the CRVS data can be more complete. It is welcoming that the Ministry of Justice is aware of this aspect, and it is in their plan to accelerate the registration of deaths in coming years.
The world has only less than eight years left to fulfill the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the fact that 15 out of 17 SDGs use indicators which require high-quality CRVS data, for the remaining duration, what should the country do to improve the quality of CRVS, thus contributing to achieving SDGs?
In the National Conference held in Hanoi in late 2022, the Ministry of Justice reviewed six years of the implementation of the Civil Status Law, and confirmed that Vietnam needed to further increase the rate of death registration and other vital events as above. It is also essential to promote a stronger collaboration between relevant ministries and sectors as well as agencies at all levels. More financial resources for the implementation of the Law at local levels need to be allocated in order to develop the national civil status database, assuring personnel working in civil status registration, addressing the issue of the low death registration rate, and resolving the lack of timely and full registration of other civil status events.
UNFPA Vietnam has been supporting the Vietnamese Government in building a modern and progressive CRVS system to “get everyone in Vietnam in the picture”. Could you give us some highlights of UNFPA Vietnam’s activities over the past time as well as projects to be launched in the upcoming time for accelerating the CRVS system in Vietnam?
Since March 2020, UNFPA Vietnam in partnership with Vital Strategies through the “Data for Health Initiative” of Bloomberg Philanthropies has provided technical support to the Civil Registration, Nationality, Attestation Department of the Ministry of Justice to improve the CRVS for birth and death registration, and pilot an innovative model on birth and death registration. The partnership aims at strengthening further the CRVS legal framework and improving the collaboration among relevant ministries in sharing CRVS data to for policy and decision making.
Within the context that we have only less than eight years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the progress to achieve SDGs requires data from the CRVS system, the importance of modernized and reliable CRVS must be underscored. We need to remind ourselves that 15 out of 17 SDGs use indicators which require high quality CRVS data. As such, CRVS can be an accelerator for the achievement of SDGs, as well as an effective tool to monitor the country’s progress towards 2030.
UNFPA is honored to support the Government of Vietnam to speed up the process of change towards a modern and progressive CRVS system in which data including vital statistics will be shared and used for the formulation and implementation of evidence-based policies and decision-making. And we are fully committed to continuing our interventions for CRVS.
A modern and progressive CRVS to “get everyone in Vietnam in the picture” is essential for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.- (VLLF)