The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

Alan Gelb

Center for Global Development

Alan Gelb is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Global Development. He was previously with the World Bank, where his most recent positions included Director of Development Policy and Chief Economist for the Africa Region. Prior to that, he managed the program of research on countries in transition from socialist systems and also led work in the area of financial systems. In addition to the topic of identification for development his current areas of research and operational interest include: growth and diversification of African economies; the management of resource-rich countries; and instruments to provide aid on the basis of results. He has written several books and many articles on these and other topics. His interest in the topic of individual identification originated from the recognition that accurate identification and authentication of individuals could contribute to the more effective implementation of economic and development policies. A first focus was on the use of biometric identification systems for cash transfer programs: see http://www.cgdev.org/publication/cash-your-fingertips-biometric-technology-transfers-developing-and-resource-rich (republished in Review of Policy Research 29, January 2012). The work broadened to include a wider range of applications, resulting in an overview of 160 cases in 70 countries; http://www.cgdev.org/publication/identification-development-biometrics-revolution-working-paper-315. This paper considers the balance between supply and demand for identity services and the relationship between “foundational” and “functional” systems of identification. Other recent pieces include a synthesis of the data released by UIDAI on the performance of India’s biometric program; http://www.cgdev.org/publication/building-biometric-national-id-lessons-developing-countries-india%E2%80%99s-universal-id-program. This data provides the first public evidence of the feasibility of identity de-duplication for large populations in a developing country context. A subsequent paper considers the legal identity and birth registration goals proposed for the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and argues that they should be seen as distinct, though related, goals; http://www.cgdev.org/publication/birth-registration-legal-identity-and-post-2015-agenda. Work in progress documents the global spread of national identification programs and some of the implications, including for data privacy and a potential increase in statelessness. It also considers the relationship between such programs and civil and birth registration, noting that in some countries they are disconnected. In addition to strengthening the basic link from civil and birth registration to national identification, the effort and technology used to roll out the latter should be engaged to strengthen the former.