The UN is Using Blockchain for Good

Asia Blockchain Review
March 9, 2020
The UN Is Using Blockchain For Good

We are currently sitting on the precipice of a new industrial revolution, and advancements like Artificial Intelligence, IoT, cloud computing and big data are all coming together to fuel blockchain-related innovations to new heights. The United Nations is not idly standing by, as they are embracing blockchain wholeheartedly.

When it comes to blockchain, its presence is felt across many different sectors, and its impact is heavily felt and sought after, especially in the financial sector. The cryptocurrency side of things also ensures that blockchain is always top of mind in most discussions too. But as enterprises start to bolster their technological weaponry, the potential for blockchain technology to propel businesses to greater heights of performance, efficiency and transparency is unquestionable.

The United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres is a big proponent for the need to embrace blockchain. “For the United Nations to deliver better on our mandate in the digital age, we need to embrace technologies like blockchain that can help accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals,” said Guterres in the statement provided exclusively to Forbes.

UNICEF and Cryptocurrency

The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund is looking into cryptocurrencies, with its Unicef Crypto Fund, a prototype that lets the agency accept bitcoin and ether donations and invest the proceeds directly into blockchain startups.“We don’t see the Crypto Fund so much as being crypto,” said Christina Lomazzo, head of blockchain for UNICEF. “What we really see it as is being ready for a digital future. We’re going to need to be ready to deal with digital assets whether that be Bitcoin or Ether or some other government-backed digital currency. It could be any of those, but this is really helping us build up the muscles to understand how to live or how to on-board digital assets.”

Tangible Humanitarian Use Cases

Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Azraq camp are receiving aid and paying for their food through a retina scan that is recorded on the blockchain. Iris recognition devices at the checkouts of the camp’s supermarket authenticate customers’ identities and deduct what they spend from sums they receive as aid from the World Food Program (WFP). The WFP’s director of innovation, Robert Opp, believes the number of potential uses of blockchain could dramatically change the way they reach people in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and security. In 2016, WFP’s cash transfers amounted to a total of $USD 880 million and to move the money across 80 countries, the agency typically relies on banks and financial intermediaries that apply transactional fees up to 3.5 percent. Its finance officer, Houman Haddad, says that apart from cutting transactional fees, WFP accountants can also easily follow the flow of money, get rid of advance payments and reduce financial risks across the board.

The Trust Deficit Disorder

Guterres is a big supporter of blockchain in general, and in a speech back in 2018, he mentioned the global lack of trust, or what he called a “trust deficit disorder”, that could be solved in part by blockchain. There are five blockchain projects in the United Nations Innovation Network set up to facilitate inter-agency cooperation. For example, the United Nations International Telecommunications Union and Food and Agriculture Organization have partnered to track pig supply chains in Papua New Guinea; the United Nations Capital Development Fund is exploring blockchain for remittances in Nepal; and the United Nations Development Programme is using blockchain to track the cocoa supply chain in Ecuador, according to the site.

Sources: Forbes, Reuters, UN

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