Insights & Analyses

UN will use blockchain and digital identities to combat child trafficking

In an effort to curb a global problem of child trafficking, the United Nations has revealed that it will leverage blockchain technology to identify children who otherwise would not have any form of identity.

The new program was announced as part of the Humanitarian Blockchain Summit in New York. The project, dubbed “Blockchain for Humanity,” will be created in partnership with the World Identity Network, the United Nations Office for Project Services, and the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology.

UN statistics show that nearly half of children under the age of 5 do not have a birth certificate. In all, there are more than 600 million children worldwide under the age of 14 who do not have a form of identification.

So-called “invisible” children are difficult for governments and organizations to find and help, and they also make easy targets for human traffickers.

Traffickers move children across borders with forged identification documents, then sell the children into sex brothels, slavery rings, or even the human organ trade. Young women are the most frequent targets.

To stop these crimes, the UN and its partners will use digital identity on the blockchain, in hopes of catching traffickers with secure data on a distributed ledger. The UN hopes that this database will make trafficking attempts more traceable and preventable.

Together, the partners have launched a “Global Challenge” seeking the best ideas and expertise in using blockchain for humanitarian purposes, including the fight against child trafficking. The Challenge also seeks to identify and address concerns over the privacy of the data and frameworks needed for digital identity management.

Interested parties can submit their ideas to the challenge online through the UNITE Ideas platform.

“Child trafficking is one of the greatest human rights abuses,” UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec said. “Leveraging blockchain technology offers potentially powerful solutions to address this serious challenge and save the lives of millions of children.”