What is ‘Identity Day’?
The 16th of September is Identity Day again. You may have heard of it, or not, but what exactly is this Identity day, and why the 16th of September?
Well, some (long) time ago the United Nations was thinking on how to make this world a better place and they came up with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). There are 17 in total, and they al contain ambitions for 2030. For example: Goal number 16 promotes Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. This Goal then has 12 Targets that together promote peaceful and inclusive societies, where everybody has access to justice with ‘effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’. From these 12 the target number 9 is to have a legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030.
You may think ‘huh, legal identity???’
Legal identity means you get recognized by the state and hence by courts of law, police, and other crucial institutions. Without a legal identity you potentially don’t have legal representation, the state does not recognize you (no pension, no welfare, no passport) and other institutions may not help you (hospitals, insurance, banks, telco’s).
It is very difficult for our Western perspective to understand that this can be an issue, but even in the Netherlands we have a lot of ‘undocumented persons’ (40,000 according to estimates). And globally the WorldBank estimated in 2017 that there are over 1 billion people who do not have a legal identity. So this is a (global) challenge.
And now Identity day
But back to the date: guess what: Goal 16 with Target 9 equals 16.9, the 16th of September.
A coalition (mainly driven bij ID4Africa) has declared that this will be International Identity Day. From the site ‘Having proof of one’s identity is a fundamental right, and a practical necessity for the human experience, especially in the context of digital transformation of society’. And in that last part the digital society appears, where equal need is for a digital identity.
Some erroneously mix the legal identity with the digital identity (the former being more foundational and related to civil registry), but you can see that it makes sense that if a legal identity is needed, this would then also translate in digital recognition of your identity, through a digital identity of some form (card, account, wallet, biometrics, …).
And what does it mean?
Through designating this day the coalition hopes that the right to legal identity will receive more attention and awareness in general, and efforts to ensure reaching this goal will be increased.