The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has led to much more instability in the middle east, specifically in Syria. The country of Venezuela has also seen a complete breakdown of its governmental and financial apparatus due to the corruption in the ruling regime of President Maduro. Typically, rising tensions of this sort correspond with people leaving their failing states to look for better economic opportunities in neighboring countries. These refugees often have to leave all of their material possessions behind to look for safety as their country’s currency nosedives to near zero. Borderless cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum can be a safe haven for refugees because they can easily be transported (on a piece of paper as a mnemonic phrase) and hold value regardless of the country they are in. Blockchains can also be very useful in helping relocate these refugees by using state of the art identification systems.
Rising Tensions in the Middle East and South America
The Arab Springs in 2011 inspired many of the peoples in the region to rise up against their authoritarian governments and demand more democratic ways of governance. The protests began in Tunisia and quickly spread to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain where they caused a lot of violence which lead to regime change in some cases but also drew a sharp attack from the dictators in some cases. Syria, in particular, became notorious for its large-scale civil war between the ruling president Assad and hardcore Islamic militants that have come to be known as ISIS. An estimated half a million people have died in Syria since 2011 because of the civil war and Syria has remained one of the most dangerous places in the world. The Syrian civil war has caused an estimated 5 million to seek asylum in other countries as it has become impossible for these refugees to acquire even the basic necessities like food and water regularly. Venezuela has also had trouble with providing its citizens a basic standard of living as President Maduro’s policies of relying on an oil-based economy has driven the country into ruin. The national currency, Venezuelan Bolivars has depreciated over 99% in the 5 years since 2013 when Maduro came to power. A million dollars in Venezuelan Bolivars in 2013 would not be only worth $3.40.
How Blockchains Can Help
In both the scenarios described above, the common thread is the mismanagement of resources by a centralized government leading to the financial ruin of a large number of people. Due to their decentralized nature, blockchains can be very beneficial in making sure that these failures are not repeated again.
Store of wealth – Bitcoin has proved to be an excellent store of wealth despite the volatility in its price because it is not controlled by a centralized government. Its value derives from the network of miners on the network along with the merchants and users across the globe who accept it as payment. Venezuelan people have resorted to mining Bitcoin and other digital assets in order to buy the basic necessities as their currency has depreciated over 99%.
Identity Management – Syrian refugees who arrive in Europe often come with little to no material possessions. That includes any kind of documentation for identification such as a passport or driving license. Blockchain-based ID management services like Civic can be very useful in speeding up the process of generating verifiable IDs for the refugees. This would allow them to get jobs and support themselves in the long run.
Transparency in Government Spending – One of the biggest sources of government corruption is the lack of oversight on government spending because of the lack of public information regarding it. A public ledger such as Bitcoin would be ideal for keeping track of government spending to make leaders more conscientious about staying honest.
Food Distribution – There are about 22 million refugees worldwide who need help from the UNHCR for provisioning food supplies. Blockchains can be used to ensure that the deliveries are made on time and also to make sure that the system is not being gamed by savvy distributors who are known to stockpile food supplies and sell them for a profit to the highest bidder.
Employment – The key to ensuring the refugees’ long-term success is their ability to secure and hold on to jobs that let them earn a living wage. Blockchains can be useful in this regard to provide a verifiable history of past employment, degrees, and certifications which could be helpful in gaining meaningful employment.