Program Builds on Building Blocks Refugee Project
UN Women, the United Nations entity that promotes empowering women and gender equality, will harness blockchain technology to improve processes in Jordan refugee camps, according to a September 18 press release. This comes as part of a partnership between UN Women and the World Food Programme (WFP). Together, the entities will apply blockchain technology to monetary transactions taking place at the Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan, affecting more than 115,000 Syrian refugees.
This program will assist the refugees who are part of the UN Women cash for work program. Traditionally, these women had to go through banks to receive their cash, but blockchain tech will allow them to receive the money directly, without intermediaries. Now, program coordinators are exploring the option of allowing the women who participate to use the blockchain to directly pay for purchases, like food, or visit WFP-contracted supermarkets to get cash back.
This will all be done using an iris scan – so there’s no need to carry cash or rely on cards. The eye scan brings up the individual’s blockchain-based account, allowing for seamless and simple transactions. The entire process offers an opportunity for more security, cost and risk reduction, and an increased harmonization of aid efforts.
“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world,” explained UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in the press release. “UN Women is partnering with WFP to change this by using innovative technology to drive change for women in the most challenging settings and to accelerate progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale.”
Other Services from UN Women and Blockchain-Based UN Projects
If this idea of providing aid via the blockchain sounds familiar, that is because it is based on Building Blocks, a project from the WFP. The WFP Building Blocks program has already had pilots in Pakistan and Jordan. By January 2018, more than 100,000 refugees in camps were redeeming assistance from WFP via the blockchain, allowing for a complete record of all transactions. This allows for enhanced privacy and security for the Syrian refugees, as well as the reduction in third-party costs and improved reconciliation. From there, the Building Blocks project will eventually expand to include all of the 500,000 Syrian refugees who receive WFP support in Jordan. WFP also hopes to expand the use of the blockchain to digital identity management and supply chain operations.
UN Women is assisting those in refugee camps in more ways than just the cash for work program. It is offering a series of seminars designed to help refugees improve their financial literacy, improving their chances of a successful life in the future. These seminars connect directly with Building Blocks using the time to help refugees view and track their recent purchases and history on their Building Blocks account. In that way, UN Women teaches refugees financial literacy skills they can use while in the refugee camps and in the future.
The United Nations is no stranger to harnessing blockchain technologies to help those in need. It also partnered with the World Identity Network (WIN) to develop a digital identity system on the blockchain that aims to prevent child trafficking. That project launched back in November 2017 with a test pilot. Other UN blockchain projects have included managing a car fleet and sending aid to Syria.