UNHCR wins award for innovative use of blockchain solutions to provide cash to forcibly displaced in Ukraine


UNHCR won the ‘Best Impact Project Award’ for its pilot project using blockchain technology to disburse cash to people displaced by the war in Ukraine. © UNHCR/Celine Schmitt

GENEVA – The 2023 Paris Blockchain Week today awarded UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, its “Best Impact Project Award” for a pilot project using blockchain technology to disburse cash to people displaced or impacted by the war in Ukraine. 

This award recognizes projects delivering significant social impact using blockchain technology and acknowledges UNHCR’s commitment to explore innovative solutions to assist refugees and forcibly displaced people.

In December 2022, UNHCR successfully executed a small pilot to distribute cash assistance to a group of people displaced by the war in Ukraine in Circle Internet Financial’s USD Coin (USDC) – a stablecoin where one USDC is equal to one US Dollar. This money was transferred directly into the recipient’s digital wallet, which can be accessed via a smartphone.

This programme, designed to be easy to use for recipients, allows them to convert this assistance to cash, withdrawing their funds in dollars, euros, or local currency, or to transfer the amount to a personal bank account. This support can then be used to cover basic needs like rent, food, medical care and heating during the winter.

The small-scale project in Ukraine is a first of its kind and has the potential to be scaled-up in the future to provide digital solutions for cash disbursement in other contexts.

“The tech sector has a crucial role to play in helping humanitarian agencies innovate to deliver better aid to those people forced to flee,” said Kelly T. Clements, UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner. “It is crucial to invest further to expand digital literacy and connectivity among displaced populations and to adapt solutions to the needs of the most vulnerable and the context in which they will be implemented.”

As the number of people forced to flee and humanitarian crises across the world increase, UNHCR aims to harness new technologies to deliver aid to more people faster and more securely.

This blockchain initiative complements UNHCR’s commitment to further expand the provision of cash as a key form of assistance, as it allows those forcibly displaced to prioritize their needs with dignity. Since 2016, when UNHCR issued its first Policy on Cash-Based Interventions, the agency has delivered almost US$5 billion in cash assistance to some 35 million people in 100 countries.


Link to Paris event: https://www.parisblockchainweek.com/

Link to UNHCR work on cash-based interventions: https://www.unhcr.org/cash-based-interventions.html

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