The innovative potential of blockchain technology does not just have economic promise but also humanitarian prospects. Thus, opportunities for the technology’s transparent and secure properties are currently being explored in various use cases to bring social aid to marginalized communities. Here are some recent examples of the blockchain being harnessed for the benefit of human rights.
One of the harshest violations of human rights are the incidences of young children being forced to work in grueling conditions for little-to-no pay. Many companies may be trying in earnest to eliminate the use of children and sweatshops, but by sourcing goods from corrupt governments, their efforts are devalued by weak regulations, unethical local practices, and loopholes that allow for the exploitation of workers.
The blockchain offers a potential solution for reducing and even eradicating the use of child labour by creating a transparent global sourcing solution, where products can be traced and accounted for from source to consumer, thus leaving no gaps for businesses to exploit children. A recent effort in this direction was made by BMW, who teamed up with UK blockchain startup, Circulor to eradicate the use of child labour in the sourcing of its cobalt. Most of the cobalt supply to the world market is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a war-stricken country where children are predominantly used for mining. BMW hopes that their efforts will result in the sourcing of clean cobalt in their automotive production.
The blockchain is being used in a human rights pilot project by the UN World Food Program (WFP), whereby biometric registration data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is used to record food voucher transactions on an Ethereum-based blockchain called Building Blocks. Refugees can purchase food using a scan of their eye instead of cash or other monetary elements. This technology provides a solution that allows for as many people to be fed as efficiently as possible, whilst cutting costs, reducing financial risks, and allowing for more responsiveness in the event of emergencies. Within a world where the incidences of global disasters are leaving 815 million people in states of extreme hunger, Building Blocks could be the precursor to other blockchain solutions that will help the humanitarian community alleviate the hunger crisis.
One of the most basic human rights is the right to recognized personhood. This means having an official, recognized identity that is utilized for every aspect of your existence. According to 2016 statistics from the United Nations, nearly 230 million of the world’s children are undocumented, making them easy targets for human traffickers. Without relevant records, a minor’s abduction can go unnoticed by the authorities and traffickers can take ownership of them through fake identification documents. In these situations, the blockchain-based ID system may provide the means for these children to obtain a valid ID that is incorruptible and traceable, making the illegal transport of children across countries more difficult, and notify authorities of suspicious situations. The government of Moldova, a country where child trafficking is prevalent, is already making plans to eliminate this issue by collaborating with the World Identity Network and U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the application of a blockchain-based identity management systems to protect their country’s children.
The blockchain has opened up new opportunities for monitoring the sourcing and supply of diamonds and precious stones, thus allowing for the eradication of blood diamonds. Blood diamonds are a stain on the luxury goods industry as they mined within warzones under violent, cruel, and abusive conditions–and are sold to further fund the oppressive regime. To fight against these blatant crimes, The De Beers Group, announced its development of a blockchain ledger to provide a trackable, tamper-proof record of their diamonds. A pilot of their platform is well underway, and it will provide means to consumers to trace diamonds to the source, ensuring that those in stock have been ethically sourced. This will potentially decrease the extent of blood diamonds being sold as consumer become more aware of their jewelry’s journey from the source.
Technology is proving to be a great weapon in the fight for human rights, and while blockchain is still a relatively new concept, it definitely has the potential to be a tool for social aid.
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