Last month, the United Nations Innovation Network (UNIN) published the Blockchain Practical Guide that evaluates the use of the distributed ledger technology (DLT) by the UN.
The guide discusses blockchain, its intricacies and the current stage of development. The UN has 15 agencies that carry out various functions on its behalf.
The UNIN, which collaborates across UN agencies, has developed The Atrium, an interagency platform for blockchain technology. It enables UN entities to learn and experiment with blockchain and provides a community that fosters collaboration between different agencies.
The UN is currently developing a number of blockchain projects across the globe.
The UN’s blockchain experience
The United Nations Office of Communication and Information Technologies (UN-OICT) is working with the Government of Afghanistan on a blockchain-based land records management platform. UN-Habitat, which works on urban planning and design, is supporting the project through its ‘City for All’ initiative. Apart from sustainable development and better governance, the solution also enables citizen engagement and representation.
Turning from land records to food traceability, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is exploring blockchain for food supply chains in Africa. The WFP implemented blockchain tracking for food in Djibouti and Ethiopia and was able to reduce the shipping documentation and other processing time to under five days from the previous 15-20 days.
A different kind of food project is being run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which implemented a blockchain pilot for tracking chocolate production in Ecuador. Called The Other Bar, when consumers purchase a bar of chocolate, the wrapping comes with a code to donate a blockchain token to the cocoa farmers in Ecuador. When four tokens are sent back to a farmer, one cocoa tree is planted to increase production.
Another token-based initiative is from the UN-OICT for internal collaboration. Staff members receive an allocation of Unite Tokens at the beginning of the year, which they can donate to colleagues to thank them for support. The balance of tokens at the end of the year will reflect the employee’s achievements based on peer input instead of management review.
And rewards are also being used in a South African UNICEF and UNDP blockchain system called Zlto. The solution enables individuals who do small jobs to earn rewards and get the verified work experience in the form of ‘work assets’ recorded on the blockchain. This allows them to prove some work experience when looking for a job.
Other projects include a UNICEF cryptocurrency fund for receiving and dispensing donations using digital assets, another UNICEF project that uses blockchain smart contracts for vendor agreements, and a DLT for tracking cash entitlements for refugees in Jordan.
Additionally, the UNICEF Innovation Fund has also invested in six blockchain projects.