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Improving the civil registry and vital statistics system in Indonesia must begin at the village level

Residents of Aceh Jaya regency, Aceh, in the middle of data recording for identity cards. Syifa Yulinnas/Antara Foto

This article is the third of four articles in the series on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in Indonesia entitled “Data that Records and Protects All”.

Around 10.7 million Indonesians remain unregistered in the nation’s population administration system. This means about 4% of Indonesia’s total population do not have citizen identification numbers, which is the key to legal identity documents.

Although they are a relatively small group, being unregistered can have dire consequences for these individuals as they are ultimately unable to access public service and government assistance. They cannot easily access government health services. They also cannot obtain social assistance from the government during the pandemic since their existence is not recognised.

Our research at the Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing, Universitas Indonesia (PUSKAPA), shows structural problems prevent citizens from obtaining legal identity documents. These problems include economic and social factors, coupled with unequipped governance.

The government has started to address these challenges, and through our work, we see a great potential to put villages front and centre in overcoming these problems. As the smallest unit of administration that is closest to the community, villages are best placed to help citizens obtain their right to legal identity and to assist the government in strengthening civil registration services that produce and manage population administrative data.

This article explains how realisation of universal legal identity can start at the village level.

Village innovations

Our research found that several villages in the West Aceh regency, in Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra, and the Pekalongan regency, in Central Java Province, have begun innovating in their efforts to help residents obtain legal identity documents.

In Gampong Peribu, a village in West Aceh, the village budget is used to provide civil registration services.

The budget is used, among other things, to appoint, train, and finance a special officer in the village to identify citizens who do not have a legal identity document, assess their needs, help them through the registration processes, and connect such demands with civil registration units at the district level. It also goes into equipping the village office with computers and printers.

With these facilities available at the village office, residents do not need to travel the 45-km to the District Office of Population Administration and Civil Registration located at the heart of the West Aceh regency.

In addition, the village budget allocation enables the special officer to visit residents in their homes.

The civil registration office has made obtaining legal identity documents free of charge. However, residents still have to pay for transportation, food and other costs to get to and from the office to obtain their documents.

Indonesia’s 2016 National Socio-Economic Survey (SUSENAS) shows more than a third of respondents (34%) do not yet have a birth certificate. This is largely due to the costs of obtaining the document, including transportation, photocopying and stamp duty.

Long distances, compounded by lack of public transportation and poor road conditions, make it even more difficult for village residents to get to the civil registration office. The office is typically located far away at the centre of the regency capital.

On top of that, many of these villagers are farmers or workers who earn a daily wage. Missing a day’s work to get to the office and process their documents is too high a cost for them to pay.

This is why providing these services as close as possible to the community, through the village government, is one solution.

Following the initial success of this initiative, the West Aceh regent issued a regulation in 2017 that allocates Rp 75,000 (US$5.20) from the village budget to process each legal identity document. This covers the cost of transportation for a mobile service. Special officers go around the village neighbourhoods in West Aceh to pick up the documents needed from the residents to process their birth and death certificates.

In addition to bringing services closer to residents, having the special officers in villages can help spread public awareness of the importance of having legal identity documents. They also make sure residents understand the methods and requirements to obtain them.

Similar services are also provided at the village level in the Pekalongan regency in Central Java.

Through a regency-level regulation in 2021, village administrations are authorised to use a portion of the village budget to appoint a special officer in each village. They provide legal identity document services for local residents.

Village administrations in Pekalongan are also providing online services.

Some villages, however, do not have internet coverage. In those cases, the special officers are there to provide the services manually. They physically deliver the application files required for obtaining legal identity documents to the Pekalongan District Dukcapil Office.

The policy basis is there, but it’s not enough

These village-level initiatives are not without legal foundation.

A 2014 law stipulates that villages must provide administrative services to meet minimum service standards in the village.

A 2019 presidential regulation on the National Strategy for the Acceleration of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) has encouraged innovative approaches to bring speedy, integrated and accessible civil registration services closer to the public and inter-operable management and use of population data for vital statistics.

A 2018 regulation by Ministry of Home Affairs regulation on Village Financial Management authorises the allocation of a special budget for CRVS services at the village level.

A 2020 regulation by the Ministry of Villages, Development of Disadvantaged Regions, and Transmigration has also set priorities for the use of village funds (Dana Desa) to update village population data.

The legal basis might be sufficient, but the government needs to translate them into practice and strengthen it with regulations at the local level.

This can include, among other things, regulations issued at the district level to authorise the allocation of the village budget and grant service authority to the village administration.

With regulations at the local level providing specific technical arrangements and stipulating the authority of the village government in detail, village administrations will be able to deliver local CRVS services with ease.

Strengthen support for villages

Despite CRVS services already being provided in a number of villages, some obstacles remain.

A 2019 study by PUSKAPA found a lack of human resources and supporting infrastructure prevents these services from reaching the entire population, especially in rural areas.

Online CRVS services, for instance, remain inaccessible in villages without internet coverage. And the mobile services of civil registration offices are still not being routinely delivered.

For regions that are having trouble implementing these services, the government through the civil registration offices needs to increase the budget in order to reach the wider community and enhance the role of the village administration.

In addition, villages also need to optimise the role of village programs such as the Integrated Health Service Posts (Posyandu) and Social Welfare Centres (Puskesos). These can help connect with residents who need to access CRVS services to obtain legal identity documents. This, in turn, allows village governments to update their population data.

Community groups such as youth groups Karang Taruna and housewife groups PKK, or other social institutions, can help the village administration reach out to undocumented residents and provide CRVS services to them.

Without optimising the role and authority of village governments in strengthening CRVS services, there will always be citizens who are left behind and unrecognised by the state.

The studies and programs related to this article were conducted in collaboration between PUSKAPA and the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas), with the Australian government’s support through the KOMPAK (Governance for Growth) program. Previous related studies were carried out with support from AIPJ (Indonesia-Australia Partnership for Justice).

This article was originally published in Indonesian

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