Birth certificate a passport to rights

AMONGST the furore over US President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, there will be real chords struck for millions of people across the world.

If Obama had been born in Kenya or Indonesia, it is unlikely he would have even received a birth certificate, long-form or otherwise.

Even today, around half of all babies born in those countries, do not receive one.

The subject of nationality, citizenship and “birthers” questioning his constitutional right to govern is what has got so many people hot under the collar, but it has also highlighted the power of the humble birth certificate.

This piece of paper has the potential to unlock doors that would otherwise remain closed to many.

A formal identity gives children access to a state education, health and social services and allows the right to vote, to work legally, open a bank account and inherit land and property.

Lack of formal ID leaves children vulnerable to trafficking, early child marriage, hazardous labour, risk of imprisonment in adult prisons and conscription as child soldiers.

In times of conflict and disaster, it makes tracing and reuniting displaced children with families more difficult and traumatic.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who helped launch Plan’s Universal Birth Registration campaign in 2005, regarding the birth certificate, said: “It is the key that opens the door to the rights and benefits of citizenship.”

As President Obama’s case has highlighted, a birth certificate can be a passport to rights and a future as an active, entitled citizen who not only has a say in their nation’s future, but who can lead it.

David Dalton

Plan Ireland

Lower Baggot Street

Dublin 2

More in this section