Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Identification and Civil Registration: A lifeline for displaced people in Mozambique

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Civil Service Reform Commission Internally displaced individuals during an ID and birth registration pilot in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, June 2022. Photo: World Bank

The conflict in the north of Mozambique has created a humanitarian crisis with many thousands of individuals internally displaced, forced to uproot their lives and start over. World Bank efforts to build resilience in Mozambique , a joint effort of the Northern Crisis Recovery Project (NCRP), the Digital Governance and Economy Project (EDGE), with support from the Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D).  This effort combines ID and civil registration into a single process and focuses on those most likely to have difficulties obtaining official documentation.

In 2022, more than 21,000 internally displaced persons and members of host communities have accessed this integrated service, carried out with the support of the United Nations on the ground. This has helped IDPs access jobs, training, education, health, and other services.

We spoke with Tiago Peixoto, Senior Public Sector Specialist at the Bank's Governance Global Practice, and Lizardo Narvaez Marulanda, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist for the Bank’s Recovery Project, NCRP, to learn more about the program and its impact:

Why is identification for development important in Mozambique?

Tiago Peixoto: First, most Mozambicans don’t possess the documents necessary to prove their legal identity and that has dramatic consequences in their day-to-day lives. Lack of identification prevents access to schooling, health services and, later in life, banking, pensions, and property transactions. It also deprives Mozambicans of basic rights, such as the right to vote in elections, which weakens accountability systems and the social contract between the state and its citizens. Second, the lack of an inclusive ID system affects the delivery of public and social services because government databases and systems are not connected to one another, leading to systemic inefficiencies. Mozambicans often need to travel between multiple locations and provide the same information to different agencies just to access basic services.

Lizardo Marulanda: In the case of the Northern Crisis Recovery Project, the NCRP, combining civil registration and ID is also considered the first step in the process of restoring trust in the government and its institutions. It provides assurances that displaced people are citizens with the same rights as all Mozambicans.

Tell us more about the pilot’s focus on the internally displaced and their hosts? What were the challenges?

Tiago: Many individuals and families with children were abruptly and violently displaced with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and subjected to traumatic events. Estimates show that 80% of the one million displaced people don’t have any type of identification, making registration even harder. To address this, the Bank supported the government to operationalize a new method where both birth certificates and IDs are issued through a “single-window.” The registration of displaced people also requires more sustained coordination across Bank teams, government entities, and development agencies.

Photo: World Bank

Judging by the conversations you’ve had with Mozambicans, what are the benefits of having an official ID?

Tiago: The registration of displaced people is an ongoing process. We can only measure its long-term effects as the process evolves and we register more people. But some benefits can be predicted: The most obvious benefit to recipients will be their ability to prove their legal existence to access justice, services, and benefits. We also anticipate this will positively impact access to jobs. For instance, as some economic activities start to resume in Cabo Delgado, one challenge for more formal and larger firms is finding people with legal identification to hire. When the conflict ends and displaced people return to their place of origin, having an ID will play an important role in their reinsertion back into their local economies.

Lizardo: Even though, under an emergency intervention such as the NRCP project, having an ID is not required for displaced people to get access to basic services and livelihood support, beneficiaries of civil registration are automatically recognized as citizens and invited to be part of the revitalization of locally based organizations like the peace-building committees. This will increase the participation of displaced people and their host communities in peace-building spaces.

How do people feel about having these documents?

Lizardo: The process started in May 2022, and, in four months, more than 21,000 displaced people and members of host communities had completed their civil registration process. We can’t yet evaluate individual perceptions of this activity, but it is important to note that other actors, including the private sector, have shown interest in supporting this process and in replicating the model in other districts in Cabo Delgado.

What safeguards are in place as part of the project?

Tiago: Coming back to your first question, another motivation for engaging with the issue of identification was the strengthening of data protection in the country. Without a robust identification system, multiple government agencies and development actors start collecting personal data on their own, increasing exposure to risks. The case of displaced people is illustrative of that: Several different actors were trying to address the crisis started parallel ways of collecting personal data. Another goal is to include displaced people in the national identification system and avoid the proliferation of databases containing personal data.Through the EDGE project, the Bank is also supporting the Mozambican government by  developing its dedicated data protection law and playing a role in the creation of a national agency for data protection.

ID systems and civil registries are not an end-goal in themselves, but instead we see them as crucial tools for achieving inclusive and sustainable development, and that includes respect for human rights and the rule of law. Internally displaced people need access to services now and having an official identity can enable such access.


Faher Elfayez

External affairs officer, World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) and Digitizing Government to Person Payments (G2Px) initiatives

Lizardo Narvaez

Senior Disaster Risk Management specialist

Tiago Carneiro Peixoto

Senior Public Sector Specialist

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