UN Announces Research Into Blockchain For Trade

The United Nations looks set to join other global agencies in embracing the blockchain, following the announcement of two separate white papers into the technology.

The research project will be pioneered by the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, focusing on both technical and commercial aspects of blockchain technology.

It is hoped that the research papers could help establish the agency’s approach to blockchain projects for the months and years ahead. After receiving formal approval at the end of last month, the project is set to culminate in a half-day seminar, to be scheduled for the autumn of 2017.

According to the proposal documents, the project will look at ways of integrating blockchain technology within the agency’s current systems, as a means of building a greater reliance on the technology in future.

"The scope of this project is to look at how existing UN/CEFACT deliverables could be used by blockchain application developers ... possible changes to existing UN/CEFACT deliverables, or new deliverables, that could be considered in order to support blockchain trade-facilitation related applications … [and] how blockchain technology could be used to facilitate trade and related business processes."

The blockchain is seen as a pivotal technology in moving governance online, as well as assisting in a range of other industry cases, from banking and finance to shipping and agriculture.

The developments from the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business mark only the latest steps by the UN toward a blockchain future.

Most markedly, the World Food Programme has already begun trials on the ethereum blockchain for distributing international aid, in a trial that could result in significant efficiency savings for the agency.

That particular trial spans over 10,000 people, but is expected to be rolled out further, to cover the majority of refugees in Jordan, should the initial pilot prove successful.

In backing further blockchain research and development, the UN is joining an ever more illustrious crop of companies, agencies and banks in assessing the potential tied up in blockchain technology.