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The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN-OICT) have teamed up with the World Identity Network (WIN) for a blockchain-based project which will help prevent child trafficking.

As per the press release, the project is part of a more wide-scale effort called “Blockchain for Humanity”, which was first announced on November 10 at the Humanitarian Blockchain Summit in New York.

The key focus of the pilot initiative is on providing identification for undocumented children and minors. As per UN stats, more than half of the children worldwide under 5 do not have birth certificates, and there are more than 600 million children under the age of 14 worldwide. Most of these children reside in the world’s poorest countries and are ‘invisible’ to governments and development agencies, owing to lack of documentation and identification. 

These ‘invisible’ children and undocumented minors are at the highest risk for child trafficking, as traffickers use fake identification documents to transport these children across borders and sell them into the sex trade, slavery, or the illegal human organ trade. As per Dr. Mariana Dahan, co-founder and CEO of WIN, and: 

“Identification is always at the heart of the solution.”

The press release for the project points out that, as a solution, the initiative will rely on blockchain tech to secure identification data on an immutable ledger, making it easier to track and prevent trafficking attempts, and catch perpetrators. 

An initiative of this sort could also have positive implications for other humanitarian organizations and projects. UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec said: 

“Child trafficking is one of the greatest human rights abuses. Leveraging blockchain technology offers potentially powerful solutions to address this serious challenge and save the lives of millions of children.”

In addition, Special Advisor for UN Engagement and Blockchain Technology Yoshiyuki Yamamoto expressed excitement for the pilot project, stating: 

“Leveraging blockchain technology for the social good is something that the international community is striving for and we're delighted to partner with WIN on this critical initiative.”

The project is not the UN’s first experiment with DLT. The organization has previously made use of the Ethereum blockchain to deliver aid to refugees in Syria.

Speaking on the occasion of the Global #Blockchain4Humanity challenge launch, Salem Avan (Director of Global Services Division at UN-OICT) highlighted the advantages of blockchain tech for the humanitarian sector, claiming: 

“The blockchain community has the opportunity to become an invaluable resource to the United Nations and our partners for innovative, high-impact applications that can accelerate our humanitarian response.”