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UNECE and SDG Lab facilitate inter-agency UN exchange on blockchain for the SDGs

Blockchain, a form of Distributed Ledger Technology, is providing new frontiers of innovation for sustainable development through decentralized authentication processes secured by cryptography. Blockchain technologies have developed rapidly over the last few years and have the potential to transform fundamental mechanisms that define the economy. Many UN agencies have seen the potential of this technology and are exploring how it can help achieve different outcomes to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It is therefore opportune for inter-agency actors in this space to connect and engage together, share their experiences with blockchain and show how it can support progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On 26 March, UNECE and the SDG Lab held a UN inter-agency discussion and experience-sharing event on blockchain for the SDGs. UN agencies shared their work on policy/regulatory review, standard setting, implementation of pilots, capacity building/technical assistance and awareness raising and information sharing.

The event highlighted a diverse range of UN initiatives on the technology. UNECE is investigating the policy and regulatory dimension, the development of necessary supporting international standards, and the collection of use cases on the application of blockchain technology, including in support of the achievement of the SDGs. UNECE is also looking at promoting a common framework for the establishment of sustainable practices in the garment and footwear sector, using blockchain.

The SDG Lab proffered the idea of a collaboration to explore the use of blockchain for monitoring and measuring intersectoral impact of the SDGs and offered its space for facilitating collaboration. Many examples of different initiatives were also showcased. WTO, for example, has recently published a book “Can Blockchain revolutionize International Trade?” exploring the blockchain potential for trade, including challenges and opportunities alongside implementation. WIPO has established a task force on blockchain and intellectual property, to explore the value of establishing relevant international standards. WHO is working on digital means to provide information about diseases. IOM and UNAIDS are exploring how blockchain could ease the establishment of digital identities, border control and immigration data collection, while ITU is working on how blockchain can help simplify telecommunication procedures, including in the areas of e-health and security of transactions (e.g. with central banks).

This event aimed at gathering UN agencies in Geneva on the issue of blockchain for the SDGs and establishing a platform for UN agencies to explore:

1) What activities and areas of the SDGs 2030 Agenda can benefit from the application of this technology?

2) What pilots have been launched or are being considered for launch with blockchain?

3) What has been the experience and lessons learned so far?

4) What practical next steps are envisaged for blockchain’s contribution to the SDGs and the role of the UN community?

The session brought together experts from the SDG Lab, UNECE, IOM, ITC, ITU, JIU, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WTO. Chichi Umesi, SDG Lab, moderated the session and Maria Rosaria Ceccarelli, UNECE, delivered the opening remarks.