The “Best Impact Project Award” at the 2023 Paris Blockchain Week was presented to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for their utilization of blockchain technology to distribute cash aid to individuals affected by the Ukrainian war.
This recognition celebrates the UNHCR’s dedication to exploring innovative solutions that assist refugees and forcibly displaced persons, while also honoring blockchain-based projects that generate significant social impact.
In December of 2022, UNHCR successfully executed a small pilot project that employed Circle Internet Financial’s USD Coin (USDC), a stablecoin where each USDC has a value equivalent to one US dollar, to disburse cash assistance to a group of war-displaced individuals. The cash was transmitted directly into the recipient’s digital wallet, which can be accessed via a smartphone.
This program is designed with ease of use in mind, allowing recipients to convert assistance into cash by withdrawing funds in dollars, euros, or local currency, or by transferring the funds to a personal bank account. This financial support can then be used to cover basic needs such as rent, food, medical care, and winter heating expenses.
The first of its type small-scale pilot project in Ukraine has the potential to grow in the future and provide digital solutions for cash disbursement in a variety of scenarios.
Kelly T. Clements, the UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner, stated that the technology sector plays a crucial role in aiding humanitarian agencies to innovate and provide better assistance to displaced individuals.
She emphasized the importance of investing in digital literacy and connectivity among displaced communities, while also adapting solutions to meet the unique needs of the most vulnerable individuals and the specific context in which they will be used.
UNHCR intends to leverage modern technologies to provide aid to a growing number of individuals impacted by humanitarian crises and forced displacement. This includes the implementation of a blockchain initiative that enhances the organization’s ability to distribute assistance quickly and securely. This initiative aligns with UNHCR’s ongoing efforts to expand cash-based assistance, which empowers displaced individuals to prioritize their needs with dignity. Since the release of its initial Policy on Cash-Based Interventions in 2016, UNHCR has disbursed nearly $5 billion in cash aid to over 35 million people across 100 nations.