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ID4Africa welcomes two more UN agencies to advisory board


Representatives of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) are joining the Advisory Board of ID-4-All movement ID4Africa to help guide the use of biometrics and other digital technologies to extend legal identification to all people in Africa.

UNSD Chief of Demographic Statistics Srdjan Mrkic and UNHCR Chief of Identity Management and Registration Section Andrew Hopkins will join existing ID4Africa Advisory Board members from the World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, the Center for Global Development, and the African Development Bank.

ID4Africa Executive Chairman Joseph Atick told Biometric Update in an interview that with the UN forming a Legal Identity Working Group last year to advance Sustainable Development Goal 16.9, co-chaired by UNDP, UNICEF, and UNSD, the representation of all three agencies on the board amounts to a major endorsement of the ID4Africa movement.

“It shows that we are in alignment with what the UN is trying to accomplish, and there is a lot of synergy between our institution and the established institutions of the UN that are focused on legal identity,” Atick says.

The new ID4Africa board members can provide extensive experience both as individuals and institutional representatives, and Atick says the organization welcomes their guidance enthusiastically.

“The UNHCR is a pioneer, among the UN agencies, in exemplifying responsible global identity management that ensures that no one within the population of displaced individuals is left behind,” he says in the announcement. “They operate identity programs in the harshest environments. While the UNSD has a long history of thought leadership, guiding and supporting the development of CRVS systems as the basis for foundational identity, and demographic data for planning and development.”

UNSD brings institutional over 50 years of experience with CRVS (civil registration and vital statistics), and the inclusion of the two new agencies gives the ID4Africa board perspectives from all different times of a person’s life, and hence the identity lifecycle, according to Atick. The work of ID4Africa also has a direct bearing on UNSD’s mission.

“When you make a billion people in the world visible, all of a sudden these people will enter the world of UNSD, because UNSD works on building statistics, understanding trends, demographics, mortality rates, and what’s happening in terms of the evolution of population,” Atick points out.

As more people become visible to UNSD, the quality and accuracy of many statistics it collects, such as infant mortality rates, will improve, enabling better planning at the local, regional, and global levels.

“I think we’re going to see some significant impact on the statistics,” Atick predicts. That impact, in turn, could benefit the development programs in those areas with improved visibility and statistical data.

Further, he says, with participation from four UN agencies, along with the World Bank, the ID4Africa board now represents a major alliance of the most active international organizations working towards legal identity.

Hopkins brings more than 30 years of experience in managing refugee programs to the board, including leading global registration and identity management efforts to ensure the inclusivity of refugee identity systems. He has deployed biometric systems and registration documentation in field operations and designed and managed large-scale group resettlement projects, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Mrkic is a lawyer and statistician with more than 30 years experience at the national and international levels. He is technical director of two international programs for UNSD, on population and housing censuses and on CRVS systems, and also leads work on developing international standards in the area.

This year’s ID4Africa Annual Meeting will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 18 to 20.

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