UN agency head sees ‘massive opportunities’ in crypto: WEF 2022

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The United Nations is smitten with distributed ledger technology (DLT). In a conversation with Cointelegraph at WEF 2022, United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC) director Sameer Chauhan explained the “massive opportunities” he sees in cryptocurrencies.

A former traditional finance executive and head of the UNICC since 2018, Chauhan has seen the rise and fall of cryptocurrency markets. He shared that groups such as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) do not want to “miss the boat” when it comes to DLTs.

Chauhan explained that cryptocurrencies are neutral technologies:

“It’s a tool. You could use it for good or you could use it for profiting—which is not bad. […] In the future, crypto will be a very strong component of how the world interacts and how they transact, making it a more level playing field.”

A powerful vehicle in terms of “bridging the digital divide,” or “transparency,” cryptocurrencies can encourage outcomes the UNICC promotes, he said. The key is the implementation of cryptocurrencies to ensure that they can be “leveraged correctly.”

Central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, could be the implementation of distributed ledger technologies on which UNICC settles. To the last question posed in the Davos Ice Hockey Stadium, Chauhan answers, “CBDCs bring the cost down” and are more powerful than fiat, or government-issued, money.

Nonetheless, there is “no one stance” when it comes to UN agencies concerning CBDCs as there are high levels of independence and autonomy among UN agencies. From refugees to food crises to women’s welfare, the UN seeks to resolve these problems—and a CBDC could be a solution:

“Maybe if we can find the right model, leverage some kind of CBDC, the interaction with the constituents we are designed to serve could be frictionless—could be smoother, more transparent.”

Related: ECB president’s anti-crypto comments trigger community responses

A hot topic at the WEF 2022, some bankers called to pump the brakes of any CBDC rollout as there are still too many unknowns. The payments network SWIFT was brought into question during a CBDC panel discussion at the WEF, where Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach joked that SWIFT would not exist in five years' time.

Whether it's a CBDC or a stablecoin with which the UN has already experimented while aiding Ukrainian refugees, Chauhan conclude that when it comes to crypto, “from where we sit, we see massive opportunities.”