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Blockchain Technology in Protecting Children’s Rights

Humanitarian Blockchain

a BitcoinNews.com series

   Part 2: Blockchain Technology in Protecting Children’s Rights

Welcome to the second instalment of the Bitcoin News Humanitarian Blockchain Series. According to Human Rights Watch, over 70 million children around the world work in hazardous conditions in agriculture, mining, domestic labor and other sectors.  We look at how blockchain is impacting upon these statistics to make the world a safer place for children.

A project is set to be launched this year, using blockchain, in order to provide manufacturers of devices such as iPhones genuine information that guarantees that the cobalt in their lithium-ion batteries is not mined by children. The tracking of cobalt in the Congo is an enormous problem due to numerous informal mining sites, many of them being worked by children. The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), devastated by a protracted war which has caused the death of 5.4 million people, is listed as the world’s poorest nation.

The US Department of Labor identifies 148 different consumer goods produced by child or forced labor around the world including beef, sugar, bricks, coffee and other products originating from 76 countries. With gold at the top of this consumer list, the report cites 21 countries in which “children help mine gold, climbing into unstable shafts, carrying and crushing heavy loads of ore, and often using toxic mercury to process the gold”.

Blockchain will offer much-increased supply chain transparency until a solution to finding an alternative source to cobalt can be found by phone companies and car manufacturers. Amnesty International is currently exploring the possibility of implementing blockchain technology to address the problem of child labor by enabling consumers to register a specific mine to make their purchase. Unregistered illegal mines would, therefore, be easily identifiable through blockchain.

This year, UNICEF published a website enabling crypto mining through donors’ computer power called “The Hope Page”. It mined Monero through Coinhive, a crypto-mining service. This was the second time that UNICEF had used cryptocurrency to fund its overseas projects. In February, it launched a similar program to support children in Syria, affected by the lengthy civil war in that country, using donors’ computers to mine Ether.

The donated funds went to UNICEF Australia’s current mission in Bangladesh for the Rohingya crisis, providing humanitarian relief for both children and their mothers, ensuring that they receive life-saving supplies such as safe drinking water, food, and vaccines.

Director of UNICEF France, Sébastien Lyon, commented on its current focus on using blockchain technology and accepting cryptocurrency donations to implement some of its projects around the world to support children’s well- being:

“Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology used for charitable purposes offers a new opportunity to appeal to the generosity of the public and continue to develop our operations with children in the countries of intervention.”

This year, the Global Bank raised USD 73 million for the two-year bond called “bondi”, due to the involvement of one of Australia’s “Big 4” banks. The funds were raised via the Global Bank’s funding arm, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The target was originally between USD 50 million and USD 100 million, aimed at supporting a range of sustainability projects in developing countries around the globe.

One of the World Bank’s main priorities is that children have access to health care, education, water and sanitation, and energy. Recent projects funded by the World Bank include improving agricultural research in Afghanistan, fighting hunger in Afghan villages, and improving infrastructure in the Palestine territories.

In many parts of the world, conditions for children are appalling, often requiring that they work for long hours in dangerous locations with little pay. In the jewelry retail sector, children working at source have often been injured and killed when working in small-scale gold or diamond mining pits.

This industry is clearly one that would benefit from blockchain in terms of addressing children’s vulnerability as they are forced to work for disreputable employers with little regard for the health or safety of their often under-aged workers. For the customer at point-of-sale, it is currently very difficult to know exactly the origins of the gold or diamonds in an item of jewelry, or whether it has been tainted by human rights abuses involving children. With more consumers beginning to demand responsible sourcing, retailers now have a supply chain solution at their fingertips by utilizing DLT. Retailers are able to take the emerging technology path and change their ways of conducting business, putting pressure on those at source to extract minerals using a much-improved code of ethics.

The missing element is education, and the dissemination of information, which are both badly needed to encourage industry to adopt this vital tool to change children’s lives and protect children’s rights around the globe.

 

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Blockchain Voting May Be Only Route to Accuracy at the Polls

Paper-based voting is beginning to have its detractors, despite an African politician’s recent animosity towards electronic-based counting techniques planned for the polls in the lead up to Congo’s General Election in December.

Blockchain is being tested in all areas and voting is a field where it could have a significant impact, improving on some existing electronic methods which have been introduced in some regions to provide speed and clarity to the process of electing a government, council or simply making some changes to civic laws.

As the US administration still hedges its bets that things will blow over regarding accusations of Russian interference in the process which led to president Trump’s election, nations around the globe are looking for ways to add far more transparency to the end product of electioneering.

The US has already trialed blockchain voting technology. West Virginia trialed it in this year’s mid-term Senate elections, while the labs in Switzerland’s Crypto Valley experimented with eID, a system designed to allow residents to vote electronically on civic matters. In Indonesia, a country with a 20-year history of vote rigging, an Australian blockchain company is currently working on a digital ballot box based on blockchain to solve this problem, after initial trials in Sumatra.

Estonia in Eastern Europe has been far ahead of the rest, using electronic voting in its elections since 2005 with 30.5% of all votes in their 2015 parliamentary elections cast through the country’s i-voting system. Japan has taken things further by trialing electronic voting with the secure backing of a DLT-based system using ID swipe cards, which are then encrypted.

While electronic voting is a step forward, it isn’t infallible unless backed by DLT. One non-DLT electronic voting system used only in Virginia recently subtracted one vote for every 100 cast. Another used in 23 US states had an unpatched vulnerability for over 11 years.

Congo’s upcoming election to replace President Joseph Kabila after 17 years as the country’s leader is already running into problems due to electronic voting before a vote has even been cast. The introduction of this form of voting and the government’s exclusion of a number of candidates from the ballot has enraged opposition parties. The introduction of tablet devices for the purpose of casting votes has provoked accusations that the machines are even more vulnerable to vote-rigging than paper and that Congo’s poor power supply could cause systems to fail during the election.

“They are not voting machines they are cheating machines,” argues opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. “They are not reliable, too slow and there are 10 million fake voters who have already been registered. We, the opposition, have united to say no to the machines.”

According to followmyvote.com, who are attempting to build an online voting platform using blockchain tech, DLT is the only accurate and truly transparent way of reflecting the will of the people precisely and without error, suggesting on their website: “This way, everyone can agree on the final count because they can count the votes themselves, and because of the blockchain audit trail, they can verify that no votes were changed or removed, and no illegitimate votes were added.”

In the words of Joseph Stalin, perhaps one of recent history’s most infamous manipulators:

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

 

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Congo’s Child Cobalt Miners Can Be Saved by Blockchain Initiatives

Cobalt mining involving children in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be heavily reduced by applying blockchain solutions to the problem.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), devastated by a protracted war which has caused the death of 5.4 million people, is listed as the world’s poorest nation. A project is set to be launched this year using blockchain in order to provide manufacturers of devices, such as iPhones, genuine information that guarantees that cobalt in their lithium-ion batteries is not mined by children. The tracking of cobalt in the Congo is an enormous problem due to numerous informal mining sites and many of them being worked by children.

Congo holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves and the demand for the main mineral component of lithium-ion batteries is set to surge as electric cars proliferate. According to Reuters, in 2016, Congo mined 54% of the total 123,000 tons of cobalt produced worldwide. Also, automaker Volkswagen is trying to secure long-term cobalt supplies to sustain their own electric car production, but need verification that no child labor has been involved in the production.

The proliferation in the use of lithium-ion has led to the increased volume demands. As a part of the deal, Volkswagen has made a move to demand guarantees that no children have been involved in the production process. Meanwhile, Toyota and Honda are planning to switch to solid-state batteries for their electric cars. These factors alone may reduce the volumes required worldwide.

Blockchain will offer much-increased supply chain transparency until a solution to finding an alternative source to cobalt can be found by phone companies and car manufacturers. Amnesty International researcher Mark Dummett said, “You have to be wary of technological solutions to problems that are also political and economic, but blockchain may help. We’re not against it.”

Amnesty International is currently exploring the possibility of implementing blockchain technology to address the problem of child labor by enabling consumers to choose a mine to make their purchase. Illegal mines would have no registration and thereby easily identifiable through blockchain.

German carmaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE) has recently joined the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, a programme established under a Chinese industry body to tackle risks in the cobalt supply chain arising from artisanal mining. The initiative, set up in 2016 includes Apple, Sony, and Volvo and was established by the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters.

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Blockchain Can Have Huge Impact on Failing Economies and Developing Countries

Blockchain, as an emerging technology, is proving that its breadth and scope offers many significant new approaches to a range of societal, economic, technological, ecological, and commercial problems, particularly in emergent economies.

Failing economies and developing countries, many of which are located on the African continent where poverty is rife, such as Congo, Zimbabwe and Eritrea, are just a handful of African countries listed among the world’s poorest nations. Private companies and NGOs are finding that increasingly new technologies can be utilized to provide solutions to problems that have often added to these struggling economies.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, devastated by a protracted war which has caused the death of 5.4 million people, is listed as the world’s poorest nation. A project is set to be launched this year using blockchain in order to provide manufacturers of devices such as iPhones the guarantee that cobalt in their Lithium-ion batteries has not been mined by children. The tracking of cobalt in the Congo is an enormous problem due to numerous informal mine sites and many of them being worked by children.

Amnesty International researcher Mark Dummett said, “You have to be wary of technological solutions to problems that are also political and economic, but blockchain may help. We’re not against it.”

Congo holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves and demand for the main mineral component of lithium-ion batteries is set to surge as electric cars proliferate. In 2016, Congo mined 54% of the 123,000 tons of cobalt produced worldwide, according to Reuters. Also, automaker Volkswagen is trying to secure long-term cobalt supplies to sustain their own electric car production, but need verification that no child labor has been involved in the production.

Companies are now looking to blockchain solutions for such problems as pressure grows to demonstrate a supply chain free of rights abuses to both consumers and investors.

Venezuela, suffering from crippling hyperinflation, is turning to Bitcoin and various other ways of tapping into cryptocurrencies in order to provide life’s simple necessities for many citizens of that country, as Bitcoin News has reported. Also, Haiti with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of USD 810 at the last census, began looking at blockchain in 2017. The government suggested then that blockchain tech could be used to register and record property transactions, government-licensed assets, intellectual property and voting.

According to Crypto Daily, Paul Domjan, global head of research, analytics and data at investment bank Exotix, sees emerging nations as the greatest beneficiaries of new technology, particularly in the area of ownership recording, arguing:

“…frontier markets in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia lag far behind, with average performance less than half that of the best performing economies.”

Hade Platform has identified what they see as the main areas that blockchain technology will impact developing countries in the future such as: easing the provision of government services, land tenure documentation and processing, provision of identity services, enhancing the freedom of speech and participation in anti-corruption activities.

 

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