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Project explores blockchain solutions for trade facilitation

28 June 2022

UNCTAD integrates blockchain technology in its technical assistance, capacity-building and research programmes.

© Nopphon/Adobe Stock

UNCTAD and five UN regional agencies on 28 June launched a four-year project on the use of blockchain to simplify and expedite import, export and transit procedures.

Blockchain can help ease trade in the wake of supply chain crises, such as those emanating from the blockage of the Suez Canal, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which have caused catastrophic trade disruptions, especially in developing countries.

“Given its potentially significant economic, social, political and governance impacts, blockchain technology is relevant to UNCTAD’s mandate of promoting beneficial and fair integration of developing countries into the global economy,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s technology and logistics division.

“The rapid advances and uptake of blockchain technology add to the urgency for UNCTAD to examine opportunities and challenges for developing countries, facilitate intergovernmental consensus-building, and provide technical assistance to countries in this area,” she added.

Promoting blockchain together

UNCTAD will work with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and other UN regional commissions for Africa (ECA), Europe (ECE), Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on the project.

It will coordinate the collaboration of public and private sectors working on trade facilitation and blockchain, leveraging its expertise in trade, innovation and the role of blockchain and technological change in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNCTAD will conduct training sessions on blockchain in trade facilitation for decision makers from developing countries and institutions during global, regional and national capacity-building workshops. It will also produce a global report on blockchain’s implications on trade facilitation performance and trade.

Funded by the UN Development Account at $663,000, the project is expected to benefit over 200 people engaged in trade facilitation in at least five developing countries, one from each region served by the UN commissions.

It will strengthen national innovation and technological capacities related to blockchain technology in customs and trade operations in the selected countries. The goal is to increase trade and enhance competitiveness in support of sustainable development, the SDGs and Agenda 2030.

Power of blockchain solutions

Blockchain-based solutions offer transparency, security, efficiency and predictability with fewer fees and less time. They provide real-time information on the movement and origin of goods, enabling better management of supply chains.

They can help tackle challenges and issues related to trade facilitation, such as the need for innovation and digitalization of trade procedures. They can also boost governments’ ability to exchange trade data across borders and enhance transparency to consumers.

UNCTAD encourages developing countries to design policies to promote knowledge-building, skills development in blockchain and foster an innovation ecosystem in their digitalization and trade compliance efforts to increase reliability and resilience.