“The passage from the state of nature to civil status produces in the human being a very significant change...” from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract, 1761

"..., by substituting in his behaviour justice for instinct, by giving to his actions the morality which they lacked previously it is then, he tells us, that his faculties exert themselves and develop, his ideas expand, his feelings are ennobled, his whole soul rises, etc."

Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's Vicar-general, who introduced in England and Wales the nationwide system for the registration of all births, deaths, and marriages in 1538, explains the utility in the following terms:

“...for the avoiding of sundry strifes and processes and contentions arising from age, lineal descent, title of inheritance, legitimation of bastardy, and for knowledge, whether any person is our subject or no. ”

Interesting Discovery

In 2002, in Liye, China (North East of Hunan 里耶秦简), 37 000 bamboo manuscripts were discovered dating back to the Qin dynasty (221 – 207 BC) which confirms the hypothesis, which was up to that point unproven, that a form of ‘civil status’, ancestor of Hukou 户口 already existed under the Qin dynasty

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The oldest recorded census in India is thought to have occurred around 300 BCE during the reign of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya under the leadership of "India's Machiavelli", Kautilya or Chanakya. The next known record comes from the reign of Akbar the enlightened Mughal Emperor of India.

source Wikipedia


Civil registration and national ID from birth, for all, and permanent as electronic records can be kept forever - the 21st century solution


The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and The Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

Implications of New Technology for Civil Registration and Identification: Research and Policy

21—24 April 2015

Many countries around the world, but especially the poorest countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, face a choice in the current generation in the development of the basic administrative systems for registering the identities of their people. These registration infrastructures are of tremendous significance to the architecture of states, setting up the foundations of state capacity and citizens' entitlements, the media they interact with and the key agents of institutional development. On the one hand are older (often pen- and paper-based) state systems for establishing and recording civil registration events: births, deaths, marriages, divorces especially. On the other hand there are newer computerised registration systems, the increasing use of advanced biometrics, and sometimes a connection to firms providing financial services. Social scientists are, simultaneously, developing much more sophisticated tools for studying the evolution, effects and administrative workings of the many different forms of registration that exist globally (Breckenridge and Szreter, 2012; About, Brown, and Lonergan 2013).

An extensive body of international and national law is informed by civil registration practices that have a history of more than 2,000 years during which the basics of the practice barely changed (e.g. Hukou in China since Qin). Countries in the West and the Far East have been successful in reaching registration completeness. On the other hand there are over 100 countries where stagnation has been common, investment in civil registration systems has been negligible. But many of the same countries replace their national IDs or introduce them anew, at high cost. Research firm Acuity estimates that over USD 50 billion will be invested in national e-IDs during the 2013—2018 period. Biometric identity cards are increasingly used for the delivery of government services. Elections have become much more frequent following democratization in Africa and Asia. Expensive biometric voter registration has become more common, to the extent that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon found it necessary to warn against their use by the poorest countries in the world.

At this colloquium social scientists and policy researchers will examine the various forms of civil registration and identification currently used and introduced around the world to consider the opportunities and implications of the choices that poor states, in particular, currently face. The conference will allow us to consider what is now a formidable body of established research across many fields, but it will also allow us to commence mapping out a set of comparative questions that will frame research and support policy makers in designing the best possible recommendations for the states that must still confront the intractable difficulties of mass identity registration.


CRC4D is a resource-, training and advisory centre. CRC4D advisory services bring together consultants in a variety of disciplines in order to offer integrated solutions for civil registration improvement and ID management.

Modern civil registration makes use of the latest information and communication technology, supported by modern law. In developing countries intelligent solutions to expand affordable government outreach, given many people’s financial inability and willingness to reach and access civil registration offices, are key.

  • These especially involve the use of mobile technology in combination with interoperability between the health sector and the civil registration authority.
  • In addition to such organizational solutions that become the cornerstone of a future e-government development, there are intelligent solutions to pricing policies that take into account the variation among the public in ability and willingness to pay and the product offerings of the civil registration office. Incentives for civil registration are essential.
  • International learning will help the application of good practice.
  • Universal birth registration is second to none as basis for reliable identification of a country’s citizenry. Registration at birth is also the right of every child (Article 7, 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child)—a right currently denied about one-third of children born in the developing world.

The industrial revolution in England would not have occurred if not for civil registration, according to historian Simon Szreter, Cambridge University (UK). Every developed country has an adequate civil registration system (and identification systems based on it). No developing country government could afford to not repeat history and not lay the basis for a sophisticated society, the rule of law and the enforceability of contracts for economic transactions through complete registration. The quiet revolution in the provision of social protection through cash transfers in more and more countries offers an excellent opportunity to provide incentives for registration, empower beneficiaries and get the targeting right. The total cost of India’s Aadhaar project to provide an ID to every Indian citizen, that cost $2 per person, is equivalent only to 4% of the country’s annual expenditure on social transfer programs. But national IDs require the civil registration system to generate the breeder documents for the national ID as a structural, long-term solution.

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  • Jaap van der Straaten

    Jaap van der Straaten

    Co-Founder | Senior Partner

  • Onno M. van der Straaten

    Onno M. van der Straaten

    Chief Information Officer

  • Deirdre Mayers

    Deirdre Mayers

    Executive Secretary

  • Max


    Mental Coach

Building the "Brands" of Our Associate Partners

Many of our Associate Partners have personal "brands" that help complement our work at CRCR4D. We support and encourage the development of these brands as much as we do for CRC4D's reputation and "brand".


Our Associate Partners do great work. While they do it their way, we care about the how, the when and the what. The where matters to us to keep costs down and be caring to the environment.


We believe in the right of each human being to have a legal identity.

We expand that to the care we give to our reports. We write our reports with one purpose in mind: to further the attainment of a legal identity for all in the very best way we can. It implies that we strive to be inclusive, to understand and to respect the broad spectrum of stakeholder views and interests that are so quintessential for civil registration and identity management.


Towards a holistic approach

The benefits to be gained from a functioning civil registration system are substantive – however, the complexities of implementation must be overcome before they can be reaped.

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Making Everyone Count

Some 1.5 billion people don’t have an official proof of identity, which greatly limits their ability to access services and escape poverty. Thanks to digital innovation, countries now have the power to efficiently change that.

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Promoting birth registration

Singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo visits her country, Benin, and promotes birth registration as a means to prevent child trafficking.

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No birth registration, no rights

UNICEF reports on a discussion about the importance of birth registration, at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

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In Uganda, African countries seek new approaches to birth registration

Civil registrars from 13 countries gathered in Uganda looking for solutions to improve birth registration across the continent. More than half of sub-Saharan Africa's children are not registered at birth, a result of antiquated systems, poor infrastructure and lack of broad-based inclusion.

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The CRC4D office is in a unique location, within walking distance of downtown The Hague and the Central Station (30 minutes by train to Schiphol Airport).

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High-end shopping, antiques, galleries and first-class hotels and restaurants are around the corner. Parliament buildings, the Peace Palace, the office of the King at the "Noordeinde Palace", the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) are withing walking distance, as are embassies for more than a hundred countries. The Scheveningen beach with its landmark "Kurhaus" is a tram ride of 10 minutes away.

The office, a beautifully restored 19th century building, is perfectly accessible by car as well as by any means of public transport. Parking is possible near the building and across the street in a large car park under the "Malieveld".

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We are always interested in undertaking new work.

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CRC4D has an ongoing project portfolio of work in the African, European, Eurasian and Asian world and Middle-East.

Interested in working with us? We kindly request that you take a few moments to fill out our expert profile. This enables us to match your suitability and availability with our projects. A short version of your profile may be published at our website.

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