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Just Development Issue 8: Making Identification Systems Work for the Bottom 40%
  May 14, 2015


Making Identification Systems Work for the Bottom 40% 

 By Megan Brewer, Nicholas Menzies, and Jared Schott

This article explores the prospects, challenges and risks of pinning inclusive development outcomes on identification, registration and documentation (“IRD”) systems. Countries and development partners alike are investing heavily in IRD systems, which show considerable development promise: enabling more effective and efficient public service delivery; generating demographic data to inform policy, planning and delivery processes; and opening up new opportunities, such as access to finance.  For all of their important development benefits, though, IRD systems may also pose risks, especially with regard to vulnerable populations. In particular, the installation of ambitious universal ID systems in low-resource, weak-governance and/or fragmented environments may reinforce exclusionary patterns, or put at risk data security and individual privacy rights. The paper argues that risk analysis and mitigation strategies should be informed by complementing existing systems- and technology-oriented ID discourse with a stronger focus on the impacts of IRD systems on the poorest and most marginalized, and strengthening our understanding of the development problems that IRD systems seek to address.

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 Why Just Development? Because unjust development will not achieve our core goals.  

The Bank Group's strategic goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity require effective justice institutions to ensure inclusive growth and fairness in distribution, regulation and allocation of resources. New research and practice across the Bank is leading to insights and innovations about how credible justice institutions emerge and how development actors can contribute to them.

Just Development provides a curated series of brief, yet informative and thought provoking, case studies, lessons and essays to share knowledge and stimulate debate on how development practitioners can promote effective justice institutions. Just Development is premised on two key principles:

(1) Justice promotion is not only a matter for the justice sector; mechanisms that govern rights, entitlements and processes of fairness are part and parcel of all development sectors. Our challenge is to break the silos that separate those concerned with 'justice' from those concerned with how markets are regulated, budgets are made to allocate public wealth and services are delivered - across development sectors.

(2) Just development means more than technical solutions. A science of delivery approach to justice requires deep contextual understanding and a flexible and adaptive process to implementation.

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