Moldova Weighs Blockchain-Based ID System to Fight Child Trafficking

The Eastern European country of Moldova may use blockchain technology to combat child trafficking, a problem that has persisted for decades.

Moldova, a European country with an estimated nominal GDP of $2,200 per capita, may consider blockchain as a solution to step up the fight against child trafficking, according to Mihail Beregoi. The state secretary for Moldova’s Ministry of Internal Affairs told Thomson Reuters that the project would be conducted with help from the United Nations (UN). 

According to a Huffington Post author, the country’s extreme poverty is the main cause of human trafficking. Moldova, which is situated in Eastern Europe and neighbors Romania and Ukraine, is the poorest country on the continent.  

The US State Department has listed Moldova in the Tier 2 Watch List, just a notch above Tier 3 countries. 

Children and women are the most targeted groups by human traffickers. Each year, hundreds of girls are trafficked to Turkey, Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and other countries. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they are forced to work as sex slaves.

The US State Department says in a report:

“The Government of Moldova does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”

Children who reside in villages and rural regions most often fall victims as they usually have no ID documents. This makes it easier for traffickers to take them out of the country by using fake papers. 

This week, several digital identification experts from the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and other organizations were in the capital city of Chisinau to discuss efficient methods for reducing child trafficking. They referred to blockchain as one of the key technologies. 

Moldova’s Ministry of Internal Affairs commented on the situation:

“This is a pressing issue and we are eager to find efficient solutions to help us address it.”

Yoshiyuki Yamamoto, special blockhain advisr at UNOPS, said that the technology might be applied by giving the potential victims paperless IDs with biometrics, such as facial scans and fingerprints. 

“If we want to set up a reliable identity management system it has to be based on something immutable,” he said.

In November, UNOPS teamed up with the World Identity Network (WIN) and other UN agencies to start an experiment using blockchain to fight crime. According to WIN chief executive Mariana Dahan, the Moldovan government was the first to show interest in the pilot. 

Dahan said that a blockchain-based system would support identification. “Of course technology is not a silver bullet that can solve all these problems but it can be the catalyst,” she said.

Interestingly, Dahan was born in Moldova. Her WIN project was launched at a summit event on billionaire Richard Branson’s island Necker. The goal of WIN is to develop a universal identification system as over 2 billion people worldwide are unbanked and still do not have IDs. 

She has studied at the Massachusets Institute of Technology - Sloan School of Management and Panthéon-Assas University in France.