UN Looking Into Blockchain Potential in Supply Chains

Blockchain Supply Chain

A UN organization that aims to facilitate global trade is reportedly looking at the potential of blockchain and smart contracts to help achieve their mission.

The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) has just published a white paper, which is available for public review, that studies blockchain tech and looks at the benefits it offers checks the impact that blockchain could have on businesses and organizations.

With the development of standards for trade facilitation and supply chain automation already a central part of its mandate, UN/CEFACT wants to focus on several key features of blockchain that it believes are most beneficial to its mission statement, namely the smart contract, electronic notary and decentralised process coordination rather than blockchain’s role in cryptocurrencies. The UN group also eyes the tech as a means of moving away from paper-based processes and also aims to remove the need for trust in systems such as those traditionally used to manage supply chains.

In the supply chain industry, several types of data can be effectively sent over blockchains, the paper says, including insurance, invoices, consignment and shipping, and bills of landing. The study adds that distributed ledgers run by regulators could also be used to store permits and declarations.

UN/CEFACT stated that they saw clear value and use cases for blockchain technology, but it also sees several issues as well.

The paper says that:

“Blockchain technology does not solve the interoperability problem that UN/CEFACT standards have always supported. Also, different blockchains are far from equal in terms of the level of trust that participants should place in them.”

The paper’s authors, however, see immense potential for the organization to clarify the deluge of data, seeing an opportunity for UN/CEFACT to use its existing semantic standards. While blockchain can certainly contribute to increasing supply chain efficiency, the study says that further study and research is needed to ascertain their true potential in facilitating trade mechanisms.

The authors say that:

“It could be very useful to develop a conceptual model of the international supply chain that shows the role of each technology within the broader map of stakeholders, services, and standards,”

The paper concludes with the authors’ suggestion that UN/CEFACT should work hand in hand with national delegations and experts and form working groups to help develop new technical specifications and uses for blockchain technology.

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