This UNRISD Seminar will give development practitioners and researchers a better understanding of the potential of blockchain technology to contribute to the implementation and achievement of sustainable development. Speakers come from the blockchain community of thinkers, innovators and practitioners who are exploring the consequences of blockchain for social good and human development.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes the role that innovation plays in support of sustainable development. UNRISD has explored the kinds of policy, institutional and social innovations that can be harnessed to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda. Our research has found that innovations that have driven transformative change towards equitable, inclusive and sustainable development are those that are grounded in universal and rights-based approaches; embed economic growth within equitable and sustainable social and environmental outcomes; and foster truly participatory processes of decision making.
An important emerging innovation receiving growing attention lately is blockchain/distributed ledger technology. The application of this technology has potential impacts across a wide range of public policy priorities and business applications from health care and education, to land registries and mobile identity, to energy grids and agricultural supply chains, as well as cryptocurrencies. Blockchain innovation is evolving at a rapid pace and on a global scale, with the number of start-ups pitching ideas continuing to grow. Proponents argue that blockchain has the potential to improve efficiency, reduce transaction costs, and increase transparency and trust across a wide range of sectors.
As a new and potentially disruptive technology, however, blockchain will not be exempt from the diffusion patterns that other equally disruptive technologies such as the Internet have experienced in most developing countries. Indeed, half of the world’s population already does not benefit from the Internet. A key risk is that inequality in access will reproduce rather than reduce other forms of inequality. What actions, by whom, can prevent blockchain technology from further deepening the very inequalities being fought or addressed elsewhere by the 2030 Agenda?
The Seminar will introduce the main characteristics of blockchain and distributed ledger technology, and present examples of its application across a range of use cases. It will also consider the risks and constraints related to deploying blockchain applications from the perspective of equitable, inclusive and sustainable development, and what can be done to mitigate them. Participants will explore the following questions.
Welcome and introduction
- How realistic are our expectations about what blockchain solutions can do?
- How easy will they be to implement and how quickly they can be scaled up?
- What are the latest applications of blockchain technologies?
- In what ways are applications supporting implementation of the SDGs? What have been the impacts on social inclusion and exclusion?
- Who shares in the benefits? What are the implications in terms of ownership, access and opportunity?
- What can we say so far about using blockchain to strengthen governance? What are the regulatory and policy precedents, concerns and responses?
Paul Ladd (Director, UNRISD)
Maria Mexi (Senior Research Fellow, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva)
- Helen Hai (UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador for Industrialization in Africa, and Head of the Blockchain Charity Foundation)
- Ivonne Higuero (Director, Economic Cooperation and Trade Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)
- Leander Bindewald (Researcher and Consultant, MONNETA / Network for Monetary Diversity)
Interactive dialogue around the “Fact or Fantasy” question.
- Jem Bendell (Professor of Sustainability Leadership, Founder of the Institute for Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cumbria)
Remote access to the seminar
The event will be available on Facebook live @UNRISD, and we will be tweeting key messages live from the seminar. Follow us on Twitter @UNRISD and use the hashtag #UNRISDseminar.
This event will also be video and audio recorded. If you would like to be notified when the video and the podcast are online, please send an email with “Audio/video notification: Blockchain Seminar” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: A.D. Gibson (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr