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Press Release


  December 14, 2006

In any society, individuals who do not have an identity are much more vulnerable to abuse. That view was expressed by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, as he accentuated the importance of moving forward on an initiative to promote universal civil registration in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Insulza told member state ambassadors during a Permanent Council meeting that this issue has implications for democracy, as a legal identity is vital if citizens are to exercise their rights and assume their responsibilities in a democratic society.

The Secretary General told the Permanent Council meeting—chaired by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador Marina Valere—that identity is an important part of the rights that protect citizens from abuses such as human trafficking and other crimes to which they fall victim.

“That is why we have been working so assiduously on this matter,” said Insulza, who referred to a cooperative approach under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed last August by the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The parties to the agreement undertake to cooperate on a citizen registration program, recognizing that a significant number of individuals in the region are not included in official civil registries.

Insulza argued that in a democratic society, people must have an identity, a name and a legal status. Stressing the importance of the memorandum of understanding, the Secretary General noted that nearly 15% of children under five years of age in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are not registered. The OAS “can now embark on projects in a number of countries,” Insulza said. “We have had discussions with some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments about tackling these citizen registration projects in greater depth.”

Others who addressed the Permanent Council Wednesday included the UNICEF Executive Director, Ann Veneman, and the Chief of the Office of the Presidency of the IDB, Jamal Khokhar. Both reiterated the arguments presented by Insulza, emphasizing the need for universal civil registration in order to protect the rights of unregistered citizens and bring them into the official systems in their respective countries.

Member state delegations, meanwhile, expressed support for the initiative, which was put before the Permanent Council by the delegations of Peru and Mexico.

Reference: E-279/06