Technology 4 human rights

12 Apr 2019 11:00h - 12:45h

Event report


The moderator was Ms Paola Garieri, (Director, External Relations, slavefreetrade). She briefly introduced the panellists to start the discussion.

The first panellist, Ms Grace Torrellas, (Blockchain4 Humanity Foundation) spoke about what her foundation does. She believes technology can transform lives, however that depends on the mindset and values for how it is used. Her company helps and supports organisations in many ways by ensuring that they follow a sustainable business model, and connects them with the right partnerships and those who can co-create to develop something better. There are several test cases where blockchain technology is being used without an actual need for it, so she vets the organisations that need support to ensure that the implementation of blockchain is both useful and necessary.

Mr Andreas Gmuender (Porini Foundation) told the audience how he helped the United Nations construct their first smart contract. The UN, along with many other companies and organisations, had reservations about the challenges of using this technology. These included concerns over energy consumption, currency volatility, and reputational risk, all of which he has worked around, with most of these issues now solved. He stated that we have the tools at our disposal to achieve the goals we have in mind, however they are useless if we don’t know how to use them. In this case cooperation and collaboration were necessary to make an impact. With smart contracts, incentives can be created for organisations to reach their goals, create alignment and collaboration with others by locking money into the contract and only allowing it to be released once the desired goal is reached. Mr Gmuender briefly covered some other projects he has worked on, one of which was in Zimbabwe to combat hyperinflation, and empower women locally by providing a stable currency and liquidity.

Mr Brian Iselin (Founder and CEO slavefreetrade) talked about his organisation and how it works for human rights. The organisation’s mission is to revolutionise the way businesses, consumers, workers, and governments work together to ensure slavery cannot exist in workplaces, by combining new approaches with new capabilities and technologies to guarantee slave-free workplaces and products. In the coming months, slavefreetrade will have their products on the shelves of stores. The best evidence of workplace conditions is from the workers themselves: they monitor and assess conditions on a continuous basis and have clear definitions and standards of decent work conditions. Slavefreetrade has created a human rights compliance platform to facilitate talking in real time to customers, and as an incentive it also has a marketplace for businesses to sell approved products. An app allows customers to check if an item is slavefreetrade-approved, and then follow the supply chain of the product. In addition this serves as a marketing tool. Another feature on the app is the ability to report any indicators of human rights issues that may be encountered, and depending on the severity the authorities can be notified to check on the issue.

Later on in the discussion, Ms Torrellas talked about the change and accountability that this decentralising technology has the potential to bring, however with this change people have to be mindful and educated in their choices. This sparked conversation among the panellists. Mr Iselin said this technology can change the world by providing services to those who need them, and giving empowerment. Mr Gmuender said that this is a paradigm change which can empower individuals, and can return authority over our content with the zero-knowledge proof features inherent in blockchain technology.


By Jainee Feliz-Cabrera