UN takes aim on Blockchain with new ‘High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation’

The UN takes aim on blockchain technology, putting it at the forefront of the agenda of its newly created ‘High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation,’ cited as “the first such panel of its kind.”

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has gathered 20 high-profile figures from industry, civil society and academia, co-chaired by U.S. philanthropist Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, the founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba.

UN takes aim on blockchain technology with expert panel
UN takes aim on blockchain technology with a digital panel co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma

Guterres and his team have spent approximately a year consulting more than 120 Member States, industry and civil society to put the high-profile group of tech experts together, in his announcement on Thursday Guterres said:

“the reason for such a panel is clear, digital technologies are changing economies and societies at warp speed, the scale and pace of change is unprecedented and the current means and levels of international co-operation are unequal to the challenge.”

The aim is for the panel to present a report 9 months from now, outlining how to effectively use and benefit from digital technology, and advise on measures for greater protection against unwanted or unexpected negative impacts of technological advancements.

Executive Director and the UN Secretariat of the panel, Ambassador Amandeep Gill explained that the panel’s “cross-cutting” approach to new technologies such as blockchain and AI (Artificial Intelligence), will enable it to “maximise” its impact during its nine-month mandate.

Gill emphasised “the opportunities and the risks and the unintended consequences” of digital transformation, citing mounting concern about both cyber-attacks and suspected election-tampering.

“You cannot look at ‘web 3.0’ without looking at blockchain or without looking at AI” adding that the hope is to “come out with some common principles… of strengthening co-operation across borders.”

The panel members are scheduled to meet twice; first in New York in September during the UN General Assembly, and then in Geneva Switzerland next January.

The UN is already engaged in a number of humanitarian blockchain projects, such as a digital identity system to combat child trafficking globally, a project with the World Food Programme (WFP) to fight hunger in impoverished areas, and an Ethereum-based pilot to transfer crypto-coupons to refugees in Syria.

Blockchain advocates have cited that the co-chairmanship of the new UN panel, with direct links to U.S.’ Microsoft and China’s Alibaba, indicates a big step for the potential global dissemination of the technology.

Both Microsoft and Alibaba have been actively developing multiple blockchain projects globally.  Jack Ma recently stated that:

“the impact of blockchain on the future of humans may be far beyond our imagination,”