What's in a birth cert?


Madam, – The furore over President Obama’s birth certificate will strike a chord with millions of people across the world (World News, April 28th). If President Obama had been born in Kenya or Indonesia, it is unlikely he would have received a birth certificate. Even today, about 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 said of the birth certificate: “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 his or her nation’s future, but who can lead it. – Yours, etc,


Plan Ireland,

Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.