In those OSCE participating States where a population-registration system is in place, it functions as an important instrument to ensure that all citizens can access and enjoy their social, civil and political rights.
In a typical population-registration system, citizens are required to register their place of residence with the relevant authorities, who use the information for the planning and delivery of state services and to contact people. There are also other forms of population registration that indirectly but decisively determine to what extent individuals enjoy certain basic rights, including mechanisms for the registration of such life events as birth, death and marriage. This information can determine a person’s eligibility to vote, to access education and health care, and to receive social services or a pension.
ODIHR offers expertise to participating States, upon request, in modernizing their population-registration systems by raising awareness among policymakers, conducting assessments of existing procedures, developing reform strategies and providing policy advice.
The impact of population registration on a society is multidimensional. Reforms to population registration systems can strengthen the protection of human rights and promote the rule of law and good governance.
Population registration and the accuracy of voter lists
In many OSCE participating States, the voter register is linked to the population register or compiled from it. In such cases, the quality of the population register directly affects the exercise of universal and equal suffrage.
In those states that use data from the population register to compile voter lists, ODIHR provides advice and expertise to ensure synergies and effective linkages between voter registers and population-registration systems, as part of its ongoing assistance to participating States to ensure follow-up on OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission recommendations.
ODIHR has also published the Guidelines on Population Registration to provide practitioners, relevant authorities and political decision-makers in OSCE participating States with a tool for assessing the efficiency of their national population-registration systems and, when necessary, in reforming them.