London — A city in Benin, partnered with another in Belgium, has won a European prize for ensuring that all babies born in the region get their births registered, a globally recognised right.
All of the children born in the city of Dogbo in southern Benin had their births registered last year, up from 40 percent in 2010, said the deputy mayor of the Belgian city of Roeselare, Henk Kindt.
"We give a future to the children and to the people there," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"They don't exist without certification."
Universal birth registration is one of 17 ambitious global development goals agreed in 2015, as it is key to safeguarding basic rights and access to healthcare, education and justice.
The inaugural PLATFORMAwards in Brussels, which took place on Wednesday, seeks to reward development cooperation projects by twinned cities and regions.
Dogbo and Roeselare were twinned in 2010 and work closely on a number of projects, from water schemes to cultural exchanges.
Their birth registration scheme involves showing animated films to parents in about 65 villages around Dogbo to underscore the necessity of registering their child's birth, which is a legal requirement in Benin, the United Nations (U.N.) says.
"For me, the recognition from the prize is very important," Dogbo's mayor, Vincent Codjo Acakpo, said by telephone.
"It touches on an issue that is very crucial, to have a birth certificate is really very important."
Without a birth certificate, people struggle to register for schools, obtain a passport, open a bank account or access social services.
About a quarter of births of children under the age of five worldwide have never been recorded, according to the U.N.'s children's agency (UNICEF).
The French region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Plateau-Central in Burkina Faso won second place for a joint programme on sustainable economic development and fighting climate change.
While Inca in Spain and Telpaneca in Nicaragua took third prize for their education, water management and sanitation work.
The winning cities in Benin and Belgium hope the success of their birth registration scheme will lead to its adoption by other parts of the West African country.
- Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Katy Migiro