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Policy Win

November 9, 2023

Budget Advocacy Yields Systemic Change for the Maldives’ Civil Registration System

The Government of the Maldives has made a historic investment in the human and technical resources that underpin its national civil registration, vital statistics (CRVS) and identity (ID) management system, dedicating approximately US$ 1 million (MVR 15.4 million) in new funding in fiscal year 2024-2025. These investments are the result of a successful budget advocacy program that commenced in late 2022 through a partnership between Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and the Maldives Department of National Registration (DNR).

The new funding will be used to create a cadre of subnational civil registrars, expand biometric technology for ID management nationwide and make its online birth, death, marriage and divorce registration systems interoperable. Data from CRVS systems helps governments prioritize health challenges, develop policies and deploy resources to improve public health systems.

Under DNR leadership, the country has allocated funding to establish 20 new permanent positions for atoll-level civil registrars who will perform critical vital event registration services for their jurisdictions, requiring an estimated yearly budget allocation of US$ 161,900 (MVR 2.5 million) for salaries. In 2025-2027, Maldives will appoint civil registrars on every inhabited island, bringing registration and ID management services even closer to the people. Because these posts are permanent, a recurrent budget will be allocated year after year for the registrars’ salaries.

In addition, the government made new investments of US$ 838,800 (MVR 12.9 million) in IT software and hardware, including procurement of 210 fingerprint scanning devices to scale up rapid biometric registration nationwide. This followed a GHAI-funded pilot with 10 devices demonstrated the value of this technology.

These wins are attributable to the strong advocacy of Ms. Aishath Rasheeda—the reform-minded head of DNR and Deputy Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure—as well as her team, who persuaded key decision-makers in Parliament and the Cabinet to commit increased funding for system improvement priorities, despite challenging fiscal circumstances in the country.

The Maldives was one of two initial pilot countries where GHAI applied its CRVS Budget Advocacy Framework and Toolkit, which assists political and departmental leaders build support for sustainable investments in CRVS systems. The work kicked off at a multi-stakeholder advocacy workshop in October 2022, and an MOU between GHAI and the government was signed two months later. Just one year from the inception of the budget advocacy project, DNR successfully achieved its goals to expand and decentralize the civil registration workforce and to overcome IT challenges that have inhibited the department’s effectiveness—a testament to the power of locally-led budget advocacy.

GHAI is proud to support the Maldives in strengthening the sustainability of its CRVS system as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative, in coordination with other D4H partners including UN ESCAP and Vital Strategies. By prioritizing increased funding for civil registration and ID services, the Maldives continues to be a trailblazer in the region for CRVS improvement and sustainability, creating an enabling environment to achieve national targets while providing a model for other countries in Asia and the Pacific to follow.