How Blockchain and SDGs Are Connected
How can modern technology help promote human rights, assist in providing humanitarian aid, fight climate change, or solve the problems of human trafficking, identity fraud, and access to food?
Today, we will give positive answers to all these questions. Blockchain can be called the key to dealing with modern problems.
Let’s have a closer look at the implementation of blockchain for social change and understand how this technology can help achieve several SDG.
How Blockchain Can Help the UN Address SDGs
In 2015, the UN agreed on a resolution that aims to reach 17 global sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. The goals consist of 169 targets. A great number of issues are included in the SDGs. They address such crucial problems as poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, clean water, sanitation, energy, the environment, and social justice.
Sustainable Development Goal № 2: Zero Hunger
Unfortunately, there have been many cases of fraudulent activities, bureaucracy, huge administrative charges, and poor management of funds connected with UN aid programs. For this reason, in 2017, WFP created a new project called Building Blocks to guarantee the necessary assistance for those who in need. Blockchain made it possible for WFP to provide poor Pakistani families with food and cash simply using a mobile phone application. This action deals with such issues as poverty and hunger, addressing SDGs № 1 and 2.
Several months after, the project grew. WFP assisted refugees from Syria who were in Azraq, Jordan. Money transfers to 10,000 refugees from Syria were performed efficiently with the help of the blockchain. CNN claims that the blockchain made it possible for the refugees to buy food in local shops with the use of a biometric eye scan. Thanks to this modern technology, refugees didn’t have to disclose their personal data with banks, enjoying the privacy and security obtained through the blockchain technology.
Currently, WFP has started expanding the use of the blockchain. Due to Ethereum-based technology, the organization has saved millions of dollars in bank transfers. Today, blockchain has made it possible for WFP to feed more than 100 million people in about 80 countries.
Sustainable Development Goal № 5: Gender Equality
What is UN Women? It’s the first body of the UN that was established in the 21st century. It aims to reach gender equality and was created to boost the progress of meeting women’s needs all around the world. The body focuses on enhancing the leadership potential and engagement of women and encouraging national governments to include gender equality issues in their financial and social agendas.
In 2018, from January 28 to February 1, a blockchain simulation lab was held by UN Women. It aimed to create the starting point of reaching such goals as gender equality, zero hunger, and the elimination of poverty. During the lab, a number of great UN projects appeared, such as the UN Women’s Global Flagship Programmes for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Identity issues were discussed during the Blockchain simulation lab. Jordan Daniell states that it’s possible for blockchain technology to create a platform that would allow users to store identification documents so that stateless people would have the opportunity to prove their identities. He believes that the platform would make it possible to identify those who are missing or are trafficked.
The simulation lab is the first step to achieving gender equality and dealing with other related crucial issues.
Olivier Mukuta and his partners won the hackathon. They are Congo innovators who created VIPI Cash. It’s a blockchain-based application that allows businesswomen to transfer money among themselves. Thanks to the app, their finances are private, secure, and not controlled by their male family members.
There were some more great projects, such as Digital Grab Bag, which is a safe place that uses blockchain and was built with the help of Syncano. It allows refugees to collect identity information that can be verified by the people they trust. Diwala was another great project that helps to verify people’s skills.
Sustainable Development Goal № 13: Climate Action
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership union made up exclusively of state and civil society bodies. It offers skills and resources to public, private, and non-governmental organizations to encourage social progress, economic growth, and sustainability.
The IUCN intends to use blockchain to enforce its Green List of Global Conservation Areas, which promotes and encourages the development of new and safe conservation areas worldwide. Due to blockchain technology, bank fees have been decreased, Green List funding has become more transparent, and it’s possible to observe improvement when achieving its goals.
James Hardcastle claims that the funding is not sufficient for many of these protected areas, and the reduction of financial uncertainty and transaction costs would allow the IUCN to spend more money on habitat protection. The blockchain would allow the IUCN to ensure that the donated financial resources go directly to the area they want to provide assistance to.
Blockchain technology is believed to enhance the carbon asset transaction system. The UN Climate Change Committee (UNFCC) suggests that documenting carbon assets on a global blockchain will ensure transparency and confirm that transactions are legitimate and resolved automatically.
Sustainable Development Goal № 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
According to Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” Target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (2015–2030) aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030.” ID2020 claims that this will include more than 20 million refugees from all over the world.
In cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ID2020 is a coalition of countries, NGOs, and the private sector. These organizations aim to make digital identities accessible to refugees via blockchain technology. They recently collaborated with Accenture and are trying to introduce an interoperable, customer-owned, and regulated digital identity to their staff. They expect this project to turn into a common background check that is accessible to potential customers with the use of a biometrics system that can deal with information from fingerprints and irises.
Unsuccessful Governance Models Improved
The main benefit of blockchain usage is its governance system. Blockchain provides a level of trust that will help to eliminate corruption.
Current national and international governance structures have been built with corruption, bureaucracy, and inefficiencies that limit access to the main governance systems. The UNDP has developed a Good Governance model that lays the foundation for the desired functioning of governments:
1. Participation: an equal decision-making process for all the citizens
2. Rule of Law: honest and unbiased legal frameworks related directly to human rights.
3. Transparency: a focus on freedom of information with easily available processes, organizations, and information
4. Responsiveness: all stakeholders served by organizations and state agencies
5. Consensus Orientation: recognizing various interests and efforts to achieve a global consensus on what is in the interests of the community and on rules and procedures
6. Equity: all people, irrespective of their sex, have the right to preserve their well-being
7. Effectiveness and Efficiency: both mechanisms and organizations can achieve results that fulfill their needs while making the best use of resources
8. Accountability: those who make decisions in administration, the private sector, and civil society institutions show accountability not only to institutional stakeholder but also to the public
Blockchain enhances trust and encourages communication between organizations and the public. It can influence democratic voting mechanisms and encourage good governance concepts. The blockchain functions on consensus between the parties, accountability, and transparency.
As Guillaume Chapron says, “Local communities could be empowered to manage their natural resources through ad hoc voting. For example, fish might be traded on a platform only if harvest quotas were approved by a community-based democratic process.”
It is certainly possible to access fair and peaceful institutions through the digitization of governance systems and the development of digital societies such as e-Estonia.
Blockchain is just at the beginning of its development and may not suit every UN mission or humanitarian agency. Toni Caradonna believes that Blockchain for Good is a promising initiative, but we can’t call it a solution to all the burning problems that the world is trying to deal with.
It’s necessary for the governments to adapt to these innovations and establish adequate policies and legislations that will give clear guidelines to explain what can or cannot be achieved with the use of the blockchain.
Furthermore, we need to remember technical issues. Some cryptocurrency, such as BTC, is slow, while Ethereum is a bit faster, but more are needed before they can be used everywhere. It’s crucial to highlight that we are all humans, so if someone forgets or loses the cryptographic key or blockchain access key, it won’t be possible to fix or replace it.
As the lines between the real and digital worlds continue to blur, everybody is worried about information ownership and services access. With the existence of such innovations, strong protection measures need to be put in place to make sure that the refugees’ identities stay secure.
We shouldn’t forget about the digital divide, as well. The idea is used to describe the gap between those who possess some gadgets or have access to technology and those who don’t. There are a number of developing countries in which people don’t have high-speed internet or other digital conveniences. It’s necessary to consider blockchain as a long-term, sustainable, and cheaper solution, or all the efforts being made will be useless.
Blockchain and Human Rights Development
Kobina Hughes believes that the blockchain provides an internet development community with an opportunity to obtain a degree of recognition in the human rights sphere. It only makes sense that technology is being used to encourage gender equality and deal with burning social issues in ways that can be explored only now, thanks to the innovative technologies. We can say that the current use of blockchain by governments and international organizations is a great step towards human rights promotion.
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