When the UN announced in their August 2017 ‘Usage of Blockchain in the UN System Desk Review’ that they already had 15 projects in the works using a combination of the Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the organization has shown the world that it doesn’t want to take a backseat when it comes to new technology.
Many people have been quick to tarnish all cryptocurrencies and the blockchain with the same brush, making uneducated comments about the technology and its potential, so to see the United Nations and other major intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) begin to apply these revolutionary technologies shows the huge potential behind them.
The UN and its agencies have been playing a huge role when it comes to saving lives, empowering women, aiding humanitarian crises, creating universally applicable technologies, feeding the starving, supporting refugees and so much more,
And these organizations now see the blockchain and cryptocurrencies as a way to do more of all of the above…
In this article, we are going to explore some of the most interesting projects currently in the works by these organizations…
UNICEF has launched a first-of-its-kind crypto-for-charity project, using the Blockchain, which welcomes PC gamers to leverage their graphics cards as a way of mining Ethereum to be donated to Syrian children. It’s heartwarming, but also incredibly innovative!
Gamechaingers will run for around two months, from February 2nd, 2018. As of writing this article (February 13th, 2018) the project has raised around €2,700 from almost 800 contributors. What’s interesting to note is that many of these 800 contributors are people who have never donated to humanitarian causes before, but by being approached as gamers, and being informed that they can make a difference through their PCs, they have been willing to contribute. Truly, it’s a revolutionary approach to try and raise funds differently.
So, how’s it done?
Gamers must install a software called Claymore, which mines Ethereum using the graphics card, and sends this cryptocurrency to UNICEF’s digital wallet without gamers having to do anything. The Ethereum is mined when the PC is left on, and not being used.
The tragic circumstances in Syria leave 13.5 million people needing aid, including 8.3 million children, and whilst this is the biggest humanitarian crisis for 2 decades, it is receiving comparably low support. Gamechaingers are testing just one technology which would go some way towards helping them, though it will require a much greater contribution.
If you’d like to get involved, visit this site or make a donation to this Ethereum wallet: 0x29165d4a5eE555b3B47FA7d4772f35FE41dB2769
The World Sports Alliance Intergovernmental Organization launched the iGObit on February 5th, 2018, with a $350-500 million digital token offering (target). iGObit has been described as ‘The digital token made for global citizens’, and according to their page on CoinSchedule, ‘IGObit is a token supported by 30+ countries and the United Nations-GSII that will fund socially conscious, sustainable development projects in emerging markets. It is the first token with “pre-approved” use cases via government granted concessions.’
WSA treasurer Mr. Asa Saint Clair is quoted as saying “we are combining the best of many worlds as a means to deploy our core mission of youth sports programs worldwide, as well as fulfill our secondary mission of supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
Mr. Saint Clair continued, adding “Many people do not realize just how much sports and finance go hand-in-hand. The Olympic Games comes every four years and plays an important role in stimulating local economies worldwide. With the launch of iGObit, we seek to mirror those efforts by launching youth sports programs that encourage young people to seek to better themselves, their families and communities. Using blockchain allows for distribution, equality and transparency.”
To put it simply
- iGObit = Official token of World Sports Alliance IGO.
- WSAIGO Mission = Furtherance of sustainable development and social justice.
- Platform for change = Youth sports.
This project is ambitious and aims to raise a lot of money through their ICO. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.
If you’d like to get involved, you can register for the iGObit wallet here.
Another project here that looks to help Syrians, who we don’t need to remind you, are suffering the greatest humanitarian crisis of the last two decades. The UN must intervene, and with cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies, they can take a different approach. In this instance, the World Food Programme (WFP) is using Ethereum based technology to fund food for thousands of Syrian refugees currently in Jordan.
The WFP already have positive tangible results from using Blockchain technology, which can’t be said for all large organizations who attempt to leverage it. Between May and November 2017, roughly $1.4m worth of Ethereum food vouchers were distributed to 10,500 of the Jordan-based Syrian refugees. The plan for growth is one refugee camp at a time, which is perfectly scalable and responsible.
So, how do people get fed with Ethereum?
The WFP hands the digital food vouchers to the supermarkets based within the refugee camps, and these supermarkets and their cashiers are fitted with iris scanners. By scanning the irises of the beneficiaries, they identify them and confirm the payment at the same time, whilst automatically communicating with multiple UN databases.
Other benefits exist too, one being the huge drop in running and transaction costs for the WFP, who are now able to use a greater percentage of aid for actually helping people and not paying the fees of financial service firms. Those who receive the food also experience greater privacy due to the iris scanner system, and using a blockchain style ledger allows the WFP to process payments and accounting themselves. The project was funded by a $100,000 grant from the WFP incubator and is being heralded as a great success.
In theory, the future scope for this project could see a person’s digital identity be recorded by the various UN databases, and the blockchain would allow people to have individual cryptographic keys that contain medical, nutritional, legal and education history. Currently, this is not seen as a desirable idea, but it’s certainly possible, and Hollywood seems to think it’s a normal part of the future!
Interested in learning more or collaborating with Building Blocks?
Climate Chain Coalition
On January 22nd, 2018, the UN announced their plans to launch the ‘Climate Chain Coalition’, a blockchain based technology designed to promote applications that take action on climate change.
What applications would the UN like to use the Blockchain for in regards to climate?
- Strengthen monitoring, reporting, and verification of the impacts of climate action.
- Improve transparency, traceability, and cost-effectiveness of climate action.
- Build trust among climate actors.
- Make incentive mechanisms for climate action accessible to the poorest.
- Support mobilization of green finance.
Massamba Thioye, who leads U.N. Climate Change’s work exploring DLT and the Blockchain said: “To fully and promptly mobilize this potential, broad collaboration among stakeholders is needed to direct resources to priority areas, avoid duplication of effort, and help avoid the pitfalls of working on a new technology with countless unknowns”.
The UN detailed the plans for this project in this blog post here.
OCHA – Blockchain for the Humanitarian Sector
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA for short, released a proposal in November 2016 looking at future opportunities to apply cryptocurrencies and Blockchain as tools for helping the humanitarian sector.
In this proposal, the main areas of opportunity are defined as:
- Protected Data Sharing
The creation of a humanitarian information marketplace is one suggestion, which would potentially end the unreliable information and information silos that often cause problems between actors and agencies. Greater data security and digital signatures are two other suggestions. One use case is described below:
“The reality is that in a disaster cycle, everyone has a piece of information, everyone has a piece of that picture. The more that people are able to share information data across ecosystems, and the more information that people have to utilize, then we’ll really see disaster response really be able to be more effective.” Kate Chapman, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
Being able to identify yourself in a humanitarian response is a huge challenge during the early recovery stages. Requiring basic documentation to receive help or aid can be solved by using the Blockchain, which would make it possible for any individual to prove their existence through a distributed public ledger. In this new version of a data management system, individuals own and control themselves.
- Supply Chain
80% of disaster relief is logistics: transporting food, medicine, and people. The humanitarian supply chain is incredibly dynamic and responsive, which makes it hard to collect data and improve processes. With better data tracking through the Blockchain, the transparency will allow for better decision-making, intervention management, and accountability.
- Donor Financing
A single global platform for donor financing and skill-sharing would massively increase the effectiveness of the humanitarian effort. Peer-to-peer financing is something the sector has been crying out for, for years. By cutting out the middleman, many humanitarian efforts can have a greater effect with the few % of the money that is saved. The UK Government said the following:
“Technological advancements that could help strengthen prevention efforts would be beneficial for the wider aid system. Fraud and corruption reduces opportunities for poverty alleviation, reduces inward investment, and is strongly linked to lower educational achievement. There is, therefore, a great opportunity to apply DLT in international aid in order to provide transparency and traceability of funds. Proving that money is being well spent could encourage nations to give more, and also all funders to target key outcomes more effectively.”
- Cash Programmes
Digital cash delivery is something highly needed within the humanitarian sector, but it has proved difficult to properly implement. Being able to see how much of the aid is actually reaching the people it helps is important for inspiring faith and funding in the sector. With the Blockchain and the ledgers tracking transactions, the data would be much clearer and would remove many opportunities for corruption.
- Crowdfunding and Microfinancing
OCHA very brilliantly states that ‘Blockchain technology can be used for crowdfunding and microfinancing in emergencies in two ways: through using existing digital currencies and by providing a decentralized funding platform.’
Their Crowdfunding for Emergencies Think Brief reports “increasing transparency, accountability and reporting among donors, project initiators and funding recipients increases trust in the project and ensures continued donor engagement.”
Ideas for the future
As these are just ideas and not activities that are yet in full effect, we should see this section of this article as more of a research-based theoretical attempt to use cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain effectively.
The Blockchain for the Humanitarian Sector report finishes with four important actions for the sector to do to maintain progress, which are:
- Capitalize on existing research and development
- Build on existing infrastructure
- Research the humanitarian applications of Blockchain technology
- Create basic frameworks for understanding and using Blockchain technology
UN Women Hackathon on Blockchain Identity
On the 11th and 12th of May, 2017, UN Women hosted an empowering hackathon in Oslo as part of the Katapult Festival. They brought together industry experts from areas like digital identity, Blockchain, and cryptocurrencies, as well as NGO representatives. Teams of engineers, developers and programmers were mentored by the NGO representatives to create interesting technologies that could help female refugees.
In a humanitarian crisis, everything you know and love is uprooted and change is constant, with each individual involved having to make a personal response to the events. When your home is no longer safe and accessible, and your regular infrastructure and basic services are gone, you are presented with a set of challenges that you might not be prepared for. This reality is what the UN Women hackathon addressed, and looked to provide solutions for, by using the Blockchain.
The winner of the Hackathon was a team lead by Olivier Mukata, who himself spent 12 years in a refugee camp in Malawi when escaping the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His team created ‘VIPI Cash’, an app that leveraged blockchain technology to allow the safe transfer of money between female entrepreneurs so that they could be financially independent of the male members of their family. This idea was quickly invested in by a Swedish company who secured the branding and business development of the prototype.
During the awards ceremony, Mukuta said: “‘There is an African saying, ‘If you support a woman, you support a family’.”
There were two other winning teams, Digital Grab Bag and Diwala. Digital Grab Bag collects and records personal identification data for refugees, allowing them to be easily verified by peers. In a crisis, personal ID is often lost, making access to jobs and services very difficult whilst being displaced. Diwala developed ‘Diwala Tokens’, which allows women to buy and sell services without cash, and as a way to verify and endorse their skills. This idea has been chosen for further development in Oslo.
This hackathon was a huge success, bringing together 40 experts to create a whole host of solutions for the refugee community, in which the average time for displacement is around 25 years.
UNCTAD. Jack Ma. Estonian E-Residency.
What do these three things have in common? Well, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development welcomed Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, and announced an ‘e-Trade for All’ system that would be based on Estonia’s E-Residency.
This could get a little complicated, so let’s break it down.
UNCTAD – The Trade and Development Conference meets in Geneva, Switzerland once every four years to ‘maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis’
Jack Ma – Worth an estimated $39.5bn, he is the founder of Chinese online store, Alibaba, which also happens to be the world’s biggest online commerce company, with billions of dollars moving in many directions every day through the site.
Estonia E-Residency – Estonia opened themselves as a digital nation for global citizens, offering e-Residency for business owners, a government-issued ID, the ability to open an Estonian bank account, and the freedom to start and run an international business within an EU nation environment (without actually having to be there). Whilst E-Residency is in the public beta phase, they have accepted registrations from entrepreneurs from 137 different countries, showing just how significant this is, and what a gift to the world it can be.
Leveraging growth, legitimizing startups
When these three things synergize, we are introduced to the ‘e-Trade for All’ system, which aims to leverage the growth and availability of internet in developing countries and make it easier for entrepreneurs in those locations to start online businesses. The system is likely to use the Blockchain to create a digital ledger for these businesses in helping them record their transactions. It will also offer essential tools, like international payment facilities, and connect them to a bank account.
Jack Ma estimates that in 30 years, 90% of business will be digital, and that’s quite easy to visualize in his system. The UN and G20 are both supportive of this venture, and believe it will complement ongoing projects, such as Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in India.
The UN is serious. They’re taking no prisoners when it comes to Blockchain (disclaimer: the UN don’t take prisoners). They want progress and they want it… in the near future. The UN won’t stop until all of the Blockchain based solutions for their work are found, developed and implemented. When that happens, they will be on the lookout for more. The UN is hungry, and Blockchain technology is well and truly on the table.