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ID4D

What’s in a number? Unpacking the 65 million-forced displacement crisis

Xavier Devictor's picture
(c) Dorte Verner
Regia, from Somalia, greets her friends and customers in her shop on the main street in the Nakivale refugee settlement, South West Uganda © Dorte Verner


Today on World Refugee Day, we hear once again that the number of people forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution has increased to 65.6 million by the end of 2016, according to UNHCR’s latest Global Trends report.

These numbers have served to galvanize attention to the severity of this crisis, providing momentum for the global community to take action. At the same time, these numbers have caused anxieties among many hosts, especially in OECD countries. Taking center stage in the political debate, it has raised questions over their ability to support all of those fleeing conflict, at times leading to fear and rising anti-refugee sentiments.

Have we really entered a “new world” where population movements are on a scale never experienced before, calling for extraordinary measures to stop the flow? To answer this question, it’s worth taking a closer look at the numbers.

“Papers please?”: The importance of refugees and other forcibly-displaced persons being able to prove identity

Bronwen Manby's picture
A refugee filling an application at the UNHCR registration center in Tripoli, Lebanon. © Mohamed Azakir / World Bank


If you were forced to run for your life, amidst falling bombs or as a hurricane approaches, what would you grab after your children and loved ones? You would be well advised to make your identity documents one of the first things to pack. Birth certificates, national ID cards, passports, residence permits, even a driver’s license—documents like these will be necessary to prove who you are to the authorities in the country to which you flee, and the authorities in your home country when it is safe to return.

Counting the uncounted: 1.1 billion people without IDs

Vyjayanti T Desai's picture
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Photo: Daniel Silva Yoshisato

An estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide cannot officially prove their identity, according to the 2017 update of the World Bank's Identification for Development (ID4D) Global Dataset.

Identification matters

How do we prove who we are to the people and institutions with whom we interact? Imagine trying to open your first bank account, prove your eligibility for health insurance, or apply for university without an ID; quality of life and opportunities become severely restricted.  An officially-recognized form of ID is the key enabler – critical not only for exercising a wide range of rights but also for accessing healthcare, education, finance, and other essential services. According to the World Bank Group’s latest estimates, this is problematic for an estimated 1.1 billion people around the globe.

Addressing this most basic barrier was the rationale behind the international community’s decision to set target 16.9 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals: “to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by the year 2030. It was also the impetus for the World Bank Group’s launch of the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative in 2014.

In order to work effectively towards this ambitious goal, governments and development partners need to understand the scale of the challenge – and every year the World Bank Group updates the ID4D Global Dataset to do just that. Using a combination of publicly available data (e.g. birth registration coverage rates from UNICEF) and self-reported data from ID agencies, we estimate the population without an officially recognized ID in 198 economies. In addition, we collate relevant qualitative information such as details on the agencies and ministries responsible, and the prevalence of systems which are digital (now introduced in 133 economies, but not necessarily with full coverage in each).

Underage with an ID to prove it

Lucia Hanmer's picture
Rubi’s Story: Exulted, Rubi ran home. As fast as her fifteen-year-old legs could carry her, she ran, exam in hand, excited to share the results with her family. The results, she believed, would shape her fate.
 

 
Yet when she got home, the elation dissipated with the dust. Her father had his own news to deliver. She would not be going to secondary school, as she had worked for, as she had wanted. Instead, she would be getting married, an economic necessity for Rubi’s family as well as a common practice in Bangladesh. Early marriage is on the decline in Bangladesh, but high rates continue to prevail; 59 percent of all girls are married by age 18 and 16 percent by age 15.
 
The Advocates: When little, Rubi had been denied access to primary school because her parents hadn’t registered her at birth. Rubi’s mother got her daughter a birth certificate, and with that, she was admitted to school, a place where she thrived.
 
At 15, smart, ambitious Rubi did not want to get married. So she found advocates in her teachers and Plan International, a child rights organization. With their support, Rubi went to the Union Council Office where the chairman informed her parents about the legal ramifications of child marriage. She was not old enough and her birth certificate proved it. She was underage. So Rubi went back to school and on to graduate at 18.
 
Child Marriage: Rubi’s story highlights the global problem of child marriage, its impact on girls, and the role of identification in empowering girls to prevent it. Child marriage remains pervasive: every year, 15 million girls are married before 18.

Making the invisible billion more visible: the power of digital identification

Vyjayanti T Desai's picture
There are an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, largely in Asia and Africa, who do not have an officially recognized document to prove their identity.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than a third of its population faces this challenge and over 40% of births (in the 0-4 age group) are left unregistered. 
 
Having a formally recognized form of identity provides the poor and vulnerable with the opportunity to climb out of poverty. This is critical for achieving a wide range of development outcomes: from opening a bank account and paving the way for broader financial inclusion to accessing education services, tracking childhood vaccinations, and empowering women.  It can also strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the state in providing critical services, such as government to person (G2P) payments, and reduce unnecessary waste of resources through better targeting.  
Photos: World Bank / Authors at Flickr World Bank  


 With the advances in technology including biometrics, data management, and the ubiquity of mobile connectivity, there is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver services faster and more efficiently than ever before.  And a country like India has also shown how, with these advances, a unique identity can be done at a scale not previously possible.
 
To reach the transformational potential of digital identification, the World Bank Group launched the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative to support progress towards identification systems using 21st century solutions.  We are shaping country priorities through technical assistance, financial support and global expertise.  At present we are engaged with approximately 20 countries – either supporting through financial and technical advice, or through our assessment to determine gaps and help develop a forward looking roadmap.    

Joining forces to make IDs accessible to all

Mariana Dahan's picture


​Being able to prove one’s identity is more than a convenience; it is based on fundamental human rights.

​Identification (ID) is indispensable for ensuring access for individuals to educational opportunities, financial services, health and social welfare benefits, economic development, as well as allowing electoral participation for citizens.

​Yet in the developing world, more than two billion people lack an official ID. The problem disproportionately affects children and women, from poor rural areas in Africa and Asia.
 
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda highlights the role of robust identification systems and their importance to development — specifically as one of the proposed SDG targets (#16.9), but also as a key enabler of the efficacy of many other SDG targets. Although there is no one model for providing legal identity, this SDG would encourage states provide people with free or low-cost access to widely accepted, robust identity credentials.
 
Regardless of the modalities to achieve it, unique identification — together with its associated rights — is becoming a priority for governments around the world. The international community should join forces to support this goal. 

​SDG target focusing on identification critical to supporting achievement of post-2015 development goals

Mariana Dahan's picture
Photo: © UNICEF/BANA2012-02020/Jannatul Mawa

This week, multilateral development banks (MDBs) and IMF representatives gathered for Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa (FFD3) committed to extend more than $400 billion in financing over the next three years and vowed to work more closely with private and public sector partners to help mobilize the resources needed to meet the historic challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

From this perspective, FFD3 presented a unique forum for recasting development financing to meet the approach of the post-2015 development agenda. But more is needed. Investment needs in infrastructure alone reach up to US$1.5 trillion a year in emerging and developing countries.

Meeting the staggering but achievable needs of the SDG agenda requires everyone to make the best use of each dollar from every source. This means tracking with precision where, when and to whom has the money been disbursed and for what development end. It requires knowing precisely who the beneficiary was and being able to uniquely establish his/her identity. 

This is the first time that a target relating specifically to identity has been put forward as part of the global goals, as target #16.9: “Provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030.

Not only there is an intrinsic value of conferring a universal legal identity, but the identity target in the post-2015 development agenda is instrumental in achieving many of the SDGs. Indeed, the provision of robust means of identification would support the achievement of at least 10 goals:

Tracking down Ebola with biometrics and digital identity

Mariana Dahan's picture


In the last couple of months, we saw some amazing events making the news headlines. From World Bank President Jim Kim’s outstanding lecture at Georgetown University on “Lessons from Ebola”, to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement that Ebola response is moving to the next stage, one may think that the pandemic is over. That no more lives will be lost to this terrifying disease.

But voices from the scientists, who have been the first to discover the Ebola virus last year, raised above the general enthusiasm and warned the international community to stay focused. Researchers from Institut Pasteur in France fear that the virus has mutated and could have become even more contagious. The new variation poses a higher risk of transmission. This means that dozens, if not thousands, of lives could be again at risk.

And while WHO shifts the focus from slowing transmission of Ebola to ending the epidemic, the world may actually be at the verge of a new pandemic emergency. With the recent surge in new cases in Sierra Leone, the world must stay focused until we reach and maintain zero cases in each affected country.

The UN Secretary General convened an International Ebola Recovery Conference last week to advocate that recovery efforts go beyond redressing direct development losses to build back better and ensure greater resilience.

Digital IDs: A powerful platform for enhanced service delivery across all sectors

Mariana Dahan's picture
Lack of personal official identification (ID) prevents people from fully exercising their rights and isolates them socially and economically — voting, legal action, receipt of government benefits, banking, and borrowing are all virtually closed off. The widespread lack of ID in developing countries is a critical stumbling block to national growth.
 
Digital IDs can help provide access to
critical services, including health care.

Digital IDs, combined with the already extensive use of mobile devices in the developing world, offers a transformative solution to the problem — a simple means for capturing personal ID that can reach far more people, as well as and new, more efficient ways for government and business to reach and serve the population.
 
Given the importance of the topic, the 2016 World Development Report (WDR) includes a Spotlight on Digital Identity, which has been developed by the authors in collaboration with various stakeholders within and outside the World Bank Group.

The 2016 WDR — the World Bank's major analytical publication — aims to advance our understanding of how economic growth, equity of opportunity and public service delivery are being affected by rapid diffusion of digital technologies. This section in 2016 WDR focuses on critical aspects, such as benefits to developing countries and implementation arrangements for Digital ID programs.

Reflections on the future of legal identity

Mariana Dahan's picture
What is “legal identity” and what might its future hold? This was the question discussed at the Future of Legal Identity Colloquium in The Hague, Netherlands last week.

At this workshop, a variety of social scientists, historians, policy researchers and development practitioners examined the various forms of civil registration and identification currently used and introduced around the world. Participants considered the opportunities and implications of the choices that poor states, in particular, currently face.

An interesting outcome of these eclectic discussions was the need to disentangle the terms “legal identity,” “citizenship,” “identification,” “registration” and “ID documentation.” This will not only allow the international community to properly understand the development problems we are seeking to address, but also help to better identify the ways to achieve them.

Indeed, in some limited respects, people possess a legal identity whether or not they are registered — for example, a criminal suspect’s right to get a lawyer or to remain silent.  Registration, in turn, may not be an entitlement to citizenship. Many countries still see citizenship as based on local or clan-based knowledge and personal attestation.

The number of people with indeterminate citizenship in Africa is probably far larger than the number of stateless people now identified. Sophisticated ID programs cannot resolve such questions and may exacerbate the difficulties of those excluded.  They need to be preceded by political dialogue and, where necessary, legal reforms to reduce the risk of exclusion. An understanding that legal identity exists in many forms encourages us to first ask which legal identity/identities we are seeking to advance and for what developmental ends[1] .

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