International Identity Day has surpassed 75 partner organizations as it continues its initial outreach efforts to establish the project’s place on the global agenda.
The proposal for official globally recognition of September 16 as International Identity Day was launched in April at ID4Africa 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria, where a petition supporting the call gained more than 1500 signatures in three days. The coalition of groups endorsing ID Day reached 40 in September, and has nearly doubled since then, with the number of organizations representing African nations making up roughly half.
Biometric Update reached out to several participating organizations for their thoughts on the progress and importance of the proposed International Identity Day.
“Designating Sept. 16 as International Identity Day recognizes the role that Good ID plays in poverty alleviation and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Without a legal ID, people are basically guaranteed a life of poverty,” says Thea Anderson, policy director at philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network. “If we want to truly escape hunger, disease, illiteracy, gender inequality, and other global challenges, we need a way to prove who we are and to engage in the daily transactions that power our economy and society, like travel, trade, taxes, and trust. Legal identification is required for children to enroll in school and complete national exams; youth to enter university and secure good jobs; and for everyone to gain a bank account, mobile phone, passport, access to government buildings, medical care, and a vote.
“Leaders from every sector need to pay careful attention to the role that good digital identity systems play in unlocking the world’s full potential and to enable that future with good policy, technology, and practice,” Anderson argues.
“The importance of International ID Day is that it recognizes both the importance of identity as a core issue in our lives, and that the responsible adoption of official identity must include protections around its design, implementation, use, and governance to ensure that ID is a tool for public good,” World Privacy Forum Executive Director Pam Dixon told Biometric Update in an email. Dixon notes that the World Privacy Forum has researched India’s Aadhaar system, and is keen to foster identity as a public good leveraging that field experience. “Identity systems will eventually be implemented in most every jurisdiction in some way; the issue is that it needs to be responsibly accomplished, and for us, that means identity with appropriate data protection and governance,” she explains.
“The identity day campaign has been a great opportunity to build awareness around the importance of identity for the exercise of legal rights for all. It has enabled us to start conversations with authorities and politicians that have not thought about identity in those terms,” comments ID4Africa Executive Chairman Dr. Joseph J. Atick.
The current phase of coalition creation, which started in August, resonated with many organizations and government agencies that share the same vision, according to Atick.
“We will continue to build the coalition as we enter the third phase which is looking for a country to propose this resolution as an agenda item for an upcoming UN General Assembly meeting,” he says. “This is the most difficult phase since we have to compete with many political priorities and we have to align ourselves with regimes that we feel share our values for democracy, liberty and respect of human rights.”
“We are realistic in this regard. Campaigns as ambitious as ours can take anywhere between 3-5 years before they can get on the UN agenda. The good news is in the meantime this Campaign gives us the perfect excuse to continue to knock on political doors to carry a conversation about identity and in a way we are going very far already towards our objective even if we still do not have the international recognition of Sept 16 as International Identity Day–we have managed to inject identity matters as a subject of discussion at the highest level of political leadership in at least twenty leading countries around the world. That is certainly worth something. Of course we shall continue our efforts working with members of the coalition who are continuing to open doors for us in the relevant circles.”
Interested parties can join the coalition in support of the official recognition through the International Identity Day website.