Digital identity can be ‘highly exclusive’ for social protection: UN report

“Digital identity systems should not be a precondition for benefiting from social protection schemes and when put in place they should be designed in an inclusive way,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. in its global report on the challenges and missed opportunities around social protection.

The ongoing report of the fiftieth session of the UN Human Rights Council, “Disuse of rights in the context of social protection”, examines why people do not have or cannot access social or government services.

There are many issues, such as lack of knowledge or governments presenting them as charitable donations, causing stigma. One of the obstacles is the need for a legal identity to access social protection or to be part of the formal economy, which unlocks social protection. Another obstacle is the adoption of digital identity schemes, which can be “very exclusive” according to the rapporteur.

De Schutter cites the case of Uganda, where between 23 and 33 percent of the country’s adult population did not receive a national identity card under the new program, as reported by the Center for Human Rights. and Global Justice (NYU), Initiative for Social and Economic Rights and Uganda’s Unwanted Witness in their report “Chased Away and Left to Die” published in June 2021.

“Alternative forms of identification, including passports, driver’s licenses, voter IDs or birth certificates should be accepted until all individuals receive digital ID cards,” writes De Schutter.

The report details the lost opportunities of poorly designed or poorly managed projects: “Social protection schemes that fail to effectively reach those in need are a huge waste of resources, akin to watering the plants with a leaky canister. .

“When individuals do not claim the benefits to which they are entitled, due to lack of information, bureaucratic obstacles or fear of humiliation, it is not a cost that society avoids but a missed opportunity to reduce the poverty and inequality, and thus improve social cohesion and long-term development prospects.

De Schutter calls for access to social protection to be considered a human right, for regimes to be better publicized and depoliticized.

Article topics

biometrics | digital identity | government services | humanitarian | identity management | legal identity | social security | The United Nations

Joel C. Hicks