Pillar 1: Inclusion

The first two principles are intended to ensure that no one is left behind by ID systems, in support of SDG 16.9: “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”.

Principle 1. Ensuring universal coverage for individuals from birth to death, free from discrimination.

The universal coverage Principle requires countries to fulfill their obligations to provide legal identification to all residents—not just citizens—from birth to death, as set out in international law and conventions and their own legislative frameworks. This includes the commitment to universal birth registration for those born on in their territory or jurisdiction and, in appropriate circumstances, linking civil registration and ID systems, which is an essential part of ensuring the accuracy and sustainability of ID systems.

In addition, ID systems should be free from discrimination, both in terms of who has access and how they are used. This requires practitioners to identify and mitigate legal, procedural, and social barriers to enroll in and use ID systems, with special attention to poor people and groups who may be at risk of exclusion for cultural, political or other reasons (such as women and gender minorities, children, rural populations, ethnic minorities, linguistic and religious groups, persons with disabilities, migrants, the forcibly displaced, and stateless persons). Furthermore, ID systems and identity data should not be used as a tool for discrimination, persecution, or to infringe on individual or collective rights.

Principle 2. Removing barriers to access and usage and disparities in the availability of information and technology

To ensure universality, Principle 2 calls for the elimination of barriers to access and use ID. This includes removing or reducing direct and indirect cost for identification. Civil registration and first birth and death certificates should be free of charge, as should the initial issue of any identity credential that is mandatory—de jure or de facto—to possess or to access basic rights and services. If fees are charged for certain additional services (such as reissuance of lost credentials), rates should be reasonable, proportional to costs incurred, and transparent to the public. Consideration should be given to subsidizing or waiving application or service fees for poor and vulnerable persons. The indirect costs of obtaining identification—including fees for supporting documents, travel costs, and cumbersome administrative procedures—should also be minimized. For example, ID-related services should be available online and should routinely visit remote communities.

Furthermore, practitioners should mitigate information disparities and the digital divide by working to ensure user literacy regarding ID systems, fostering a culture of understanding and trust, and reducing information asymmetries that might prevent individuals from accessing identification-related services or benefits. With the rise of digital systems, no one should be denied identification or associated services because they lack mobile or internet connectivity or digital literacy. Stakeholders should work together to ensure both online and offline infrastructure can be extended to provide “last-mile” access and connectivity, particularly for those in rural and remote areas.