2 March 2018: A publication by the Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) looks at the potential of block chain technology to accelerate progress on the SDGs. The white paper explores the successful use of blockchain in bringing new levels of efficiency and effectiveness to the fields of development aid, supply chain management, renewable energy and economic growth.

The Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development was established in September 2017 to develop a multi-sectoral framework to support the UN system, along with Member States, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector and civil society in utilizing blockchain-based technologies to develop local, national and global solutions to urgent challenges.

Launched on 2 March 2018, the publication titled, ‘The Future is Decentralised: Block Chains, Distributed Ledgers and the Future of Sustainable Development,’ aims to demystify block chain technology and demonstrate real-world applicability of its potential, using case studies and field work. The paper is designed as the first volume in a series of primers to provide policy makers, regulators, and UN Member States a non-technical introduction to block chain technology.

The paper calls for using the principles of “do no harm” and “design with not for” when using block chain technology.

The text also looks at the risks posed by this nascent technology, providing suggestions on managing them. The publication identifies several factors that may temper block chain adoption, including:

  • Telecom infrastructure: Every country must have a certain quality level of information and communication technologies (ICT) to facilitate the reach of block chain technology;
  • Legislative barriers: There needs to be consideration of each country’s legislation and how block chain technology intertwines with it;
  • Data integrity: Data security protocols and procedures must be in place;
  • Project management: Agile management, randomized control trials to measure progress and impact, and informed iterations of the actual product itself are needed;
  • Barriers to communication and education: Customers must be educated about what the technology does, what its advantages are and how to use it; and
  • Inadequate institutional capacity: Relevant institutions require an appropriate operational capacity in terms of staff, finance, procurement, and logistical resources, as well as the requisite technical ability.

The white paper identifies several principles that should be respected when designing and using block chain technology, including “Do no harm” (stressing that ethical concerns surrounding privacy and the rights of the individual ought to be at the forefront of considerations) and “Design ‘with’ not ‘for’” (conveying that the role of the individual should inform the design of any block chain initiative).

Volume 2 in the primer series is expected to address six additional development areas and feature case studies. It will be released in mid-2018. [Publication: The Future is Decentralised: Block Chains, Distributed Ledgers and the Future of Sustainable Development] [Commission Website] [Press Release on Establishment of Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development]