Agencies of the United Nations are adopting the power of distributed ledgers. The latest among them is UN Women and World Food Programme (WFP). The two will work together to use a blockchain-based solution to assist Syrian refugee women who work in the UN Women’s cash for work programmes. This will help in keeping their funds secure and ensure that the displaced Syrian diaspora finds economic empowerment.

Helping Rebuild Lives

Women living in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan can now participate in UN Women’s cash for work programmes. Traditionally, cash transfers were made to refugees using a third-party financial service provider. But because of the partnership, funds can now be transferred to their accounts securely utilizing a blockchain network. The previous arrangement provided women with monthly cash payments on a set date. Now the two agencies are exploring the chances of providing cash back to the refugees in WFP-contracted supermarkets or allowing them to pay for their goods directly.

The new initiative will depend on WFP’s Building Blocks project. Building Blocks is a blockchain-based system that provides cash transfers to 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka identified the opportunity in blockchains and said:

“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world. UN Women is partnering with WFP to change this by using innovative technology to drive change for women in the most challenging settings and to accelerate progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale.”

How Will the Programme Work?

The system works on eye scans to authenticate a user. The scans are linked to her Building Blocks blockchain account, where she receives her regular cash distribution. Both UN agencies validate each other’s transactions, making transactions quicker and safer. This makes the system more accountable and secure and also helps in reducing cost and other risks. Additionally, it increases the harmonization of aid efforts by multiple agencies.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley said that the agency is exploring every way possible to help people in need through the most efficient means available to them. He added that technology can help make a big impact on the lives that the agencies serve.

Za’atari and Azraq camps currently have four Oases centers, which help in increasing financial literacy in women. It conducts seminars on expense tracking and budgeting as well. The programme provides a holistic approach to economic empowerment by providing livelihood, as well as financial literacy.

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