How Blockchain Can Help Humanitarian Causes

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The Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), also known as blockchain, is ushering in an era of a highly secure, digital, transparent, open, immutable and distributed ecosystem, which will transform the way everything around us operates.

The possibilities of blockchain go beyond economics and speed—it’s about accuracy and building trust. By leveraging its power of transparency and reliability, the current systems can overhaul themselves to have far-reaching social and economic implications. Here’s a look at how blockchain-based processes and projects are changing the rules of the game for a better tomorrow.

Individual Identity

Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights stipulates, ‘Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.’ However, more than a billion people across the globe lack access to this fundamental right, depriving them of basic healthcare, education, voting, housing, schooling, childcare, housing benefits and other social facilities.

In June 2017, Accenture and Microsoft (MSFT) partnered to provide a blockchain solution to support the ID2020 program, a public-private partnership dedicated to solving the challenges of identity for such people, through technology. The Accenture prototype aligns to the principles of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, and uses the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance’s private, or ‘permissioned,’ blockchain protocol.

In November 2017, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA), Fordham University, in collaboration with the UN hosted the ‘Humanitarian Blockchain Summit.’ During the summit, a pilot blockchain-based initiative to combat the grave issue of child trafficking was announced by the World Identity Network (WIN), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN-OICT). By UN estimates almost 50% of the children (under 5 years) in the world do not possess a birth certificate while the estimates for children under 14 exceed 600 million worldwide.

These undocumented children and minors fall in the high-risk category as they are invisible for development or government agencies. Thus, identity not just lays the foundation stone to avail any economic, social or political opportunity, it ensures that every life is valued. In this light, it is imperative to include every individual onto a tamper-proof system and ensure their existence is acknowledged and they get their rightful due.


Over 80 million people go hungry world over. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is an effort to address the needs of these people. The process is cumbersome with pitfalls at multiple points. The WFP has been taking steps to imbibe the blockchain technology and make the food-assistance process faster, cheaper and more secure to cover as many people as possible.

WFP believes, "Full implementation of the technology promises significant cost savings to WFP, and donors alike, potentially totaling millions of dollars per annum." Under its pilot, Building Blocks, 10,000 refugees are now able to pay for their food by means of entitlements recorded on a blockchain-based computing platform in Jordan’s Azraq camp in June.

Meanwhile in Finland, MONI in association with the government has developed a prepaid debit card to facilitate the rehabilitation of refugees by circumventing the need for a bank account or identity papers. The card allows the refugees to receive money (even salaries) and pay bills. Statistics reveal that the Finnish immigration authority received more than 40,000 asylums applications between January 2014 and June 2017.

However, without proper identification papers these people have to wait for long periods for opening a bank account or for securing a job. The Finnish Immigration Service partnered with MONI around two years ago.

Be it financial aid or assistance in the form of vaccination, medicines or food, pilferages and corruption are rampant at every step, in every corner of the world. "Corruption robs people of essential resources, destroying dignity and causing desperation. Emergency assistance pumps large amounts of money and goods into damaged economies. Food, water and medical supplies can be stolen and sold on the black market," highlights Transparency International.

Such issues can be minimized if not resolved completely, using blockchain technology. With information being shared over a distributed ledger, the processes related to assistance or aid can be expedited while eliminating chances of fraud or malpractice and dependence on any third party.

Final Word

"The internet is entering a second stage based on blockchain," states the World Economic Forum and its absolutely true. Blockchain has a great scope to revamp industries, and if its potential is harnessed for humanitarian assistance, aid and identity management; it would add a human touch to its use-case, making it one of the most significant contributions of a technology.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: News Headlines , Blockchain , Fintech , Software , Sustainability , Technology
Referenced Symbols: MSFT

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