Laura Marissa Cullell

Laura Marissa Cullell is an MA Graduate in International Law and Human Rights from UPEACE.

Implementing Blockchain for Good Governance. Is it Feasible?

The United Nations has acknowledged the importance of good governance and its’ links between peace and development. It has actively paved the way as an international organization to improve upon exisiting mechainsms through disruptive technologies. The UN has been a key player in adopting and implementing blockchain-based projects to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, but can blockchain be applied to further principles of good governance around the world?
Let's find out!

What is Good Governance?

Although there is no one clear definition of good governance, the United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP) is a good starting point. In 1997, the UNDP developed and identified the following eight characteristics of Good Governance which provides a cursory framework for how governments should operate:
  1. Participation – All citizens (both men and women) having the right to an equal voice in decision making through legitimate intermediate institutions. This level of participation is built on freedom of association and speech.
  2. Rule of Law – the existence of legal frameworks that are fair and impartially forced, specifically the laws on human rights.
  3. Transparency – based on the free flow of information. This is where processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned, with enough information provided to understand and monitor them.
  4. Responsiveness – Institutions and Government agencies attempted
    to serve all stakeholders.
  5. Consensus Orientation – acknowledging differing interests and attempts to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interests of the group and (where possible), on policies and procedures.
  6. Equity – all citizens regardless of gender, have opportunities to maintain their well-being.
  7. Effectiveness and efficiency – allows both processes and institutions produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.
  8. Accountability – where decision makers in government, the private sector, and civil society organizations are accountable to the public as well as to institutional stakeholders.
The UN as an international organization attempts to promote good governance models through a 2-pronged approach: through its organs such as UNDP but also in collaboration with civil society and Member States.
According to Conor Seyle, establishing Good Governance is key to unpacking the relationships between governance structures, security and international development. The principle of Good Governance is especially important in progressing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal No. 16:  Access to Just and Peaceful Institutions calls upon international governments, civil society, and UN institutions to utilize principles of good governance to uphold peace. This is achievable when good governance methodology is applied. When governments are accountable in operations, have enough capacity to deliver security services and human development to those governed, peace can be achieved.

Models of Good Governance

Conor Seyle’s model of good governance builds on the UNDP’s model. Seyle believes that Governance systems that contribute to stable peace are characterized by:
i)  having inclusive means of operating;
ii) participatory systems that bring the governed into the process of decision making, systems for accountability that ensure transparent and equitable operations, and;
iii) enough systemic capacity that they can provide physical security and public goods supporting human development

Seyle argues that when all these elements are present, they form a mutually reinforcing virtuous cycle that reduces the risk of violence. He affirms that participatory governance supports peace.  Governance systems should provide pathways for citizens to feel that their issues and identity is represented in the decision-making structure in some way.  When systems are not seen as participatory, their legitimacy is challenged, and collective decisions may not be followed. If participation turns into identity-based factionalization leading some groups to feel excluded, Seyle concludes that this can contribute to instability.
These fundamental principles of good governance established by the UNDP and Conor Seyle can be converted into a blockchain-based governance model which is further improved upon with the introduction of such a disruptive technology.

Where does Blockchain fit into all of this?
The fundamental principles of good governance can be converted into a blockchain-based governance model successfully. Blockchain technology is based upon the principles of trust, transparency and accountability. It's goal is to ensure that individuals have more control and greater access to trustworthy services.
Blockchain-based public services can help prevent fraud through greater public auditability, reduce processing costs through automation of operations, streamline administrative processes and improve reconciliation between governments and their people.
The best part? Governments around the world are taking note.
Alexis Rocamora and Aryanie Amellina published one of the most comprehensive overview and analysis of blockchain and the SDGs. According their findings, 77% of the 42 countries in their survey already had multiple institutions showing interest in blockchain, 17% of those are already planning to develop a national blockchain initiative.
Rocamora & Amellina believe that blockchain functionalities (when properly applied to government operations) help address the following Sustainable Development Goals:
One example of implementing a blockchain-based governance model is by digitizing the voting process.
Sierra Leone, Japan, Russia, and the Ukraine are already in the development or in pilot stages of creating blockchain-based voting systems. Blockchain-based voting mechanisms, when applied with Seyle’s framework for good governance could provide a legitimate way of
ensuring a just and fair electoral process.
It is important to note that there are some fundamental issues to consider. Blockchain itself is immutable, but if the encryption scheme used to secure public code is weak, or lacking, then there can be a risk. Digital and e-voting methods are still subject to human flaws, security risks and errors. Blockchain as a technology can potentially make the process more transparent, but all aspects of the technology need to take important measures to protect the identities and information of the voters.
Blockchain is an effective tool that can improve upon already existing institutional and governmental mechanisms. It is not the be-all, end-all solution and more than just utilizing blockchain is required to promote peace. But it certainly is a great start when Governments actively work to build trust and ensure accountability and transparency. Implementing the principles of good governance with blockchain places citizens at the forefront, and can improve realtions between governments and their people.
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Laura Marissa Cullell is an MA Graduate of the UN University of Peace in International Law and Human Rights. She wrote her thesis on Blockchain and the Sustainable Development Goals: Utilizing Disruptive Technologies to Promote Human Rights, Peace, and Good Governance. She loves puns, cookie dough, glitter, and reading an obscene amount of books at the speed of light.
Support her work through Patreon!

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