About The Session
Blockchains for Sustainable Development was a full-day session at the 2018 World Investment Forum held in the largest room in the Palais des Nations, Room XX, which is also known as the Human Rights Room. Twelve top-tier speakers were invited to speak on the application of Blockchain technologies for the meeting of UN Sustainable Development Goals and bridging the funding gap needed to achieve them.
Palais des Nations
Lead Organizer, Chair & Moderator
Initiative for Leadership and Sustainability
Changpeng “CZ” Zhao
Member of European Parliament
Louis de Bruin
Blockchain Leader Europe
IBM Business Services
UNICEF Innovation Fund
Dr. Guenther Dobrauz
Partner & Leader
PwC Legal Switzerland
Director of Ecosystem
Dr. Abdalla Kablan
Malta Stock Exchange
Sander de Jong
Sustainable Economic Development
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Session Opening Stephen DeMeulenaere, IFLAS
Lead Organizer, Chair & Moderator, Stephen DeMeulenaere
Opening Speech James Zahn, UNCTAD
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Opening Keynote Speech Prof. Dr. Jem Bendell, IFLAS
The Pros & Cons of Blockchain and Currency Innovation for Development
Practical Applications of Blockchain Technologies
Galia Benartzi, Bancor
Louis de Bruin – - IBM
Sander de Jong – Fairfood
Vanessa Grellet - Consensys
Keynote Speech Changpeng Zhao, CEO, Binance
Blockchain Challenges and Opportunities Meeting SDGs
Guenther Dobrauz - PwC Switzerland
Marta Piekarska - Hyperledger
Chris Fabian - UNICEF Innovation
Changpeng Zhao, Binance
Galia Benartzi - Bancor
Keynote Speech Eva Kaili
Policy and Regulatory Risks & Opportunities for Governments
Guenther Dobrauz - PwC Switzerland
Hans Docter - Netherlands Foreign Ministry
Marius Jurgilas - Central Bank of Lithuania
Eva Kaili - Member of European Parliament
Abdalla Kablan - Malta Stock Exchange
Closure of Session by the Chair Stephen DeMeulenaere
Room XX - Palais des Nations
& Alliance of Civilizations
The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room (Room XX) is one of the largest conference rooms at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). The main feature of the refurbished room is a ceiling sculpture by the prominent contemporary Spanish artist Miquel Barceló.
Blockchains for Sustainable development
delegates see climate risks to finance
In a new survey of attendees of a UN-organised event on currency innovation, blockchains and sustainable development, 80 percent of respondents believe that impacts of climate change do, or might, pose a threat to banks or monetary systems.
The Academic Chair of the “Blockchains for Sustainable Development” (B4SD) event at the World Investment (WIF), Professor Jem Bendell, said: "It appears that as more people wake up to the onset of climate disruption, they will want to promote more resilience in society. One area for attempting that is with our money system - the way we transact each day. Blockchain and crypto, as well as local government and community-based approaches to alternative currencies and payment systems, could be part of that effort."
At the B4SD event, the large cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, announced the launch of their blockchain-based donation platform, called Binance Charity. It was highlighted by the UN as one of the main outcomes of the World Investment Forum. The head of the Binance Charity Foundation and UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador, Helen Hai said that: “By the end of 2019, the platform collected more than $5 million US dollars of donations from all over the world in form of cryptocurrency and delivered help to over 100 thousand people in Africa. Our relationship with UNCTAD helped us carry out our work globally thanks to the event.”
The survey of attendees was conducted 18 months since the WIF 2018, to help identify impact and issues for future initiative. In the survey, 67% of respondents confirmed that the WIF 2018 B4SD event, or resulting interactions, influenced their organisation’s work. 60% said that they had been influenced by the research of Professor Bendell.*
Looking back, Helen Hai explains that B4SD was “the first time blockchain technology was seriously discussed over the table of a UN-level meeting. It created a great platform for governments, enterprises and civil society to participate in the inspiring and beneficial topic of blockchain for social good. This really helped the blockchain industry to grow towards a positive direction.”
The event was also helpful for the UN systems’ engagement with this topic. “It was an important step in the process of establishing this topic as an area of work for UNCTAD” explains Thomas Van Giffen, a Programme Management Officer in the ICT Policy Section at UNCTAD. "Going forward, we seek to further broaden our research and technical assistance on currency innovation and blockchain for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Another impact appears to have been in helping open-up this topic for wider discussion. For instance, one attendee used the experience and connections to then successfully organise an event to connect the blockchain sector in Israel with international development organisations from around the world.
The lead organiser of B4SD, Stephen DeMeulenaere, explained that the ultimate impact of these events is on the ground, around the world. “By helping establish this topic as one for international development aid, we hope to support organisations like the Red Cross, who recently backed one of our attendees to scale up alternative currencies in Africa. The work of Grassroots Economicsfont> and their Sarafu credit system had been overlooked by development donors. Given the increasing threats from climate change and other factors to the stability of global financial institutions, we can work with low income communities to create alternatives that are under their own control.”
Professor Bendell now focuses on adaptation to the disruptive impacts of climate change. His latest study for the University of Cumbria outlines the potential for local governments to create inter-operable local currencies that would not depend on the existing payments systems or banks. The aim is to develop alternative means of payment in case of breakdown of the mainstream systems. “The sooner we look with fresh eyes at the systemic vulnerabilities in our societies and try out new ideas in the face of climate disruption, the more chance we have of reducing harm from the coming troubles,” concludes Professor Bendell.
If you would like to support B4SD and UNCTAD to do more work on the topic of financial and payment system resilience, as an aspect of adaptation to climate change, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
You can view Professor Bendell’s opening keynote at the conference here.
*For instance: Ruddick, W., Richards, M. and Bendell, J. (2015) ‘Complementary Currencies for Sustainable Development in Kenya: The Case of the Bangla-Pesa’ International Journal of Community Currency Research, 19. ISSN 1325-9547. And: Bendell, J. (2017) “Currency Innovation for Sustainable Financing of SMEs: Context, Case Study and Scalability”. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Volume 2017, Number 67, September 2017, pp. 39-62(24).