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UN expects 350M more people worldwide to get legal identity by 2025


Erstwhile Policy Advisor and Program Manager for Legal Identity at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Niall McCann says despite the many challenges faced, the United Nations is working to ensure that by 2025, 350 million of the over one billion people currently without legal identity globally, will be able to prove who they are.

McCann made the remarks recently in Episode 1 of Biometric Update’s ID16.9 podcast, a production which intends to track global progress in efforts to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 16.9 which talks of legal identity for all, including birth registrations, by 2030.

Responding to a question on whether the UN was actually on track in meeting the objectives of SGD 16.9, McCann said although there is a methodology for keeping tabs on that, it is pretty difficult to count exactly how many people in the world cannot prove who they are.

“(C)alculating the overall number is quite difficult. Within the UN, we wanted to set a target for ourselves, to try and get 350 million people of these one billion or so registered by the end of 2025. But to be very honest with you, it has also been very difficult in the COVID-19 context,” said McCann.

The situation, he said, is also difficult because methods of proving one’s identity may be different in different countries and contexts. He used the analogy of someone who may be able to prove his identity in front of a police officer using a voter’s ID, but may not be able to use the same credential to inherit property or have access to certain public services.

McCann, in the podcast, emphasized the importance of legal identity, but also on birth registration which, in many cases, is the premise for establishing legal identity. He said because of this, the UN and its partners have expanded the definition of legal identity to mean the “basic characteristics of a person including date of birth, place of birth, name, sex, as recorded by a legal civil registration authority, and as therefore authenticated by the issuance of a certificate registering the child’s birth.”

McCann also recognized the efforts many countries are making in order to either establish national population registers, national ID schemes, or digital ID programs such as India’s Aadhaar, which include biometrics.

Speaking on the importance of legal ID, the official said, “people who do not have legal identity, people who cannot prove who they are, in other words, tend to end up incredibly vulnerable in society.”

“If you cannot prove who you are, your chances of getting a job in the formal economy are incredibly small across the world,” he adds.

The podcast also featured the view of Faher Elfayez, External Affairs and Communications project manager for the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. Elfayez spoke on the important role ID plays in meeting other development goals, and the amount of support the ID4D gives to developing countries to advance their ID-related work.

Cornelius Williams, director of Child Protection at UNICEF, whose view also featured in the podcast, said in an ID4Africa Livecast Africa has been making great progress so far on legal identity, but the 16.9 goal may not be met unless there is a disruptive process.

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