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Vital Stories

Cambodia’s Landmark Law: Identity for All

For decades, countless people across Cambodia lived without proof of their existence, lacking the rights, protections and benefits afforded by a legal identity. With the country’s new Law on Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identification (CRVS-ID), promulgated by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia on July 1, 2023, a transformative change is underway. This landmark legislation establishes a modern, integrated CRVS-ID system and makes registration of births, deaths and other vital events compulsory to ensure that everyone is counted.

The CRVS-ID law guarantees a legal identity for all, which is essential to accessing education, health care, property, and many other benefits and social protections, and forms a critical component of Cambodia’s digital public infrastructure. The comprehensive civil registration data and vital statistics collected also provide policymakers with crucial data to guide effective and equitable public health and development policies, and target resources strategically.

The road to reaching this milestone in the country’s history has been remarkable. Following the Khmer Rouge’s destruction of Cambodia’s civil registration and identification system in the 1970s, the government underwent extensive efforts to rebuild its system. However, the system remained fragmented and incomplete for many years. In response, the government launched a National Strategic Plan for Identification in 2017, paving the way for the creation of the country’s CRVS-ID law and reforming the system to integrate and capture real-time data.

Vital Strategies has been collaborating with the Cambodian government and partners such as the Global Health Advocacy Incubator through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative since 2017. Efforts include supporting the creation and implementation of the CRVS-ID law; analyzing and redesigning civil registration processes; training civil registrars, medical professionals and data analysts to enhance skills and capacity; and improving data use to guide evidence-based policymaking.

With its leadership, effective collaboration and clear coordination, Cambodia is close to achieving its vision of “One Person, One Identity.” In just six years, birth registration rates have more than doubled, and death registration rates have increased significantly. Cambodia is also on track to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 16.9, which aims for 100% of births and 80% of deaths to be registered globally by 2030.

Cambodia’s success serves as a shining example to the world that #CountingEveryone is foundational to building a more equitable and healthier future.

Learn more by watching our new video about Cambodia’s commitment to #CountingEveryone.

Read our press statement here.