The 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened this week in New York and was dominated by the climate crisis with Grete Thunberg, the « 16-year-old poster child » for the climate crisis movement, delivering a passionately blistering speech on how the political and business establishments have stolen her dreams by not appropriately responding to the crisis.
Last year’s UNGA was dominated by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how blockchain and related technologies could help expedite the achievement of the goals. This year, thanks to the “burning platform” created by Thunberg and the Global Climate Strike where an estimated 1.4 million children stayed away from school to protest, and greater developments in blockchain technologies, SDGs and the blockchain which last year seemed slightly uncomfortable bedfellows were unquestionably united.
Dr. Jane Thomason commented: “It is early days, but in the social benevolence and impact space, the application of blockchain for remittances, financial inclusion, green bonds and new forms of financing are receiving increasing prominence in global discussions at 2019 UNGA. »
Thomason is the ceo of Fintech Worldwide and is a global thought leader in social impact with a pedigree in public policy. I have the privilege of crossing paths with Thomason at big global events and brain trusts where industry meets government meets academia meets digital / fintech meets impact investing. She is in my global superhero community of people who help connect the dots between these intersecting silos. She also knows her way around UNGA both on and off-piste.
Blockchain has significant relevance for climate change and The Sustainable Digital Finance Alliance (SDFA) along with HSBC Center of Sustainable Finance launched the report: “BLOCKCHAIN Gateway for Sustainability Linked Bond ». The report outlines how the blockchain, AI and the IOT can reduce administrative reporting requirements and move the green and sustainable bond market from $167.3 billion, two percent of the overall bond market in 2018, and help to access capital to meet the annual funding deficit of the SDGs.
« With 130 banks representing more than $47 trillion in assets and one-third of the global industry signing the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Banking on Sunday, the role of green digital finance will be central to meet the goals of the U.N.’s Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as its Sustainable Development Goals, » says Katherine Foster, the chief intelligence officer of the SDFA.
The report is a strong signal from the market that sustainable bonds, enabled by blockchain, are ready to take off. In contrast to last year’s UNGA, I was moderating panels with bankers and corporate financiers who didn’t have this on their radars with most pointing to the World Bank Commonwealth Bank of Australia as the first ever blockchain bond, and indicating a « wait and see » approach.
Another important use case for refugees was profiled. Among the digital finance pioneers for humanitarian settings is the World Food Program (WFP) flagship initiative “Building Blocks: Blockchain for Zero Hunger”was showcased at multiple events. WFP is using digital cash vouchers powered by the blockchain to ensure that food aid is getting to where it’s needed in Jordan, Kenya and Somalia.
Richard Byworth, the ceo of Diginex, blockchain financial services and technology company, and a big proponent of the power of using blockchain to create an impact, said: “The progress we are making in this area is outstanding, as well as working with a number of global NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, we are rapidly seeing interest from corporates that are starting to understand the efficacy of good. One example of this is our eMin tool, launched last year to help migrant workers from being exploited, which is now being rolled out across Thailand.”
The Women Political Leaders (WPL) Global Forum, the Blockchain Charity Foundation (BCF), and the Finance Centre for South-South Cooperation, hosted “Blockchain for Social Good: Utilizing Blockchain to Aid Economic Development” focusing on the possibilities for blockchain to be a strong driver for inclusive growth. WPL pursues this topic in the belief that women politicians have an opportunity to play an important role in understanding and driving the crucial role of blockchain for future social and economic development. Jorge Chediek, Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, pointed out that blockchain technology could act as a game changer, having a massive impact on economic development to build a better world.
Promising partnerships were formed, with BCF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recognizing the importance of blockchain technology to construct a better society and, during this event, announced their partnership to support the work of blockchain for social good. BCF will contribute one million dollars to UNDP.
On the SDG financing theme, another side event explored “Cryptocurrencies & Blockchains – A New Boost For SDG-Financing?”hosted by The Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development, represented by Georgia, France and Germany. The event explored the potential of blockchain to stimulate new private sector investment but warned of the tax and regulatory issues, or rather lack of in the sector.
I moderated a global financial services regulator panel at UNGA last year where in broad terms, regulators were supportive of crypto, digital assets and blockchain as investment vehicles for achieving SGDs, however, they were concerned about the marketing of such products to retail consumers, and the « provenance » of the investment products demonstrating they actually achieved SDG goal targets. This is a serious area that needs further monitoring and development.
No Blockchain event is complete without a good hackathon! On September the 21st and 22nd a hackathon at the NYC Blockchain Center was convened by the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) and Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition (BSIC). Developers and entrepreneurs worked over the weekend to solve three challenges framed by three of the UN’s SDGs: Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 11, Sustainable Cities & Communities. Teams came up with innovative new ways to address the SDGs. It is always inspiring to see the commitment of blockchain developers to use technology to build a better world.
Sandra Ro, ceo of GBBC commented, “Against the backdrop of the UNGA 2019, we are thrilled to have partnered with leading blockchain companies, enterprise, and institutions to host the Scaling Impact for the UN SDGs Hackathon. The solutions that have emerged from this hackathon will no doubt advance the conversation around the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and move the dial on employing blockchain technology to advance our shared vision of a better, more sustainable and equitable future for all.”
The international and blockchain ecosystem communities are increasingly looking at how to use this technology to work towards achieving the SDGs. The UN recently published a white paper entitled “The future is decentralized – Blockchains, distributed ledgers, and the future of sustainable development”. An increasing number of startups, non-governmental organizations, cryptocurrency philanthropy funds, and organizations including Global Goals, the Pineapple Fund, Impact Coin, SDG Coin, Moeda, Dapact , Gainforest, SolarCoin and Unicef are all working on applications for blockchain technologies to move the dial to achieve the SDGs.
Thomason adds, “An increasing number of blockchain events at and around the UNGA this year focused on demonstrating how blockchain is continuing to contribute to the SDGs by offering up some excellent use cases.”
What a difference a year makes! The pace and maturity of blockchain technology use cases to expedite the achievement of the SDGs displayed at UNGA 2019 is breathtaking. Let’s hope it continues at this pace to help effectively respond to the global crisis humanity is facing.