On Human Rights Day: Impacts of Blockchain Technologies in Human Rights Practices Explored

Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10 — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. This year, we celebrate the groundbreaking developments in improving access to information on key issues all over the world. However, one thing that needs to be underscored is the advancements in human rights practices brought by a record-keeping technology called blockchain.

For the longest time, blockchains have been generating positive reviews across the globe, especially in huge industries. However, one of their positive impacts that people fail to recognize is their capacity to help companies adhere to supply chain integrity commitments as stated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UNGPs”). 

Legislative measures

According to the UNGPS, the supply chain integrity is crucial in forwarding data security legislative measures, including the California Supply Chain Transparency Act, the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, and the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation. These laws played an important role in imposing extensive disclosure requirements and prohibiting companies from sourcing services from suppliers who disregard humanitarian standards.

Because of this, blockchain solutions are highly recommended to be implemented in any company, may it be with multi-layered or cross-border supply chains. 

Incorruptible design

When it comes to design, blockchains have a very unique scheme. Their digital ledgers are incorruptible and can record virtually anything of value. This decentralized database stores its records in “blocks” and is regularly maintained and verified by a computer network. If there is a need to modify the blockchains, the only way to do so is to add new blocks; pre-existing blocks cannot be adjusted or even changed.

A “node” indicates each computer in the network which contains a copy of the blockchain. Nodes play a crucial part in implementing data privacy, as its main task is to validate in real-time any changes made to the blockchain. Moreover, access to the blockchain can be made open to the public, without restrictions, or limited to select stakeholders. 

Monitoring humanitarian standards

With its unalterable design, companies that have implemented blockchain can identify potential human rights violations quickly and gather the necessary information to address the violation and put forward sustainable solutions. 

The characteristic of blockchain that also needs to be emphasized is its self-certifying chain of custody for goods and services. With this feature, companies are given the chance to elevate their humanitarian standards and obligations. An example of this is their role in identifying issues in the labor industry, specifically in child labor.

Blockchain technologies track and monitor how products are being made and marketed. The immutable identity of the information uploaded on to the blockchain will allow it to monitor and assess every step of production, from the moment it was processed to its entry in the global trading market. 

Although the use of blockchains in supply chains are still under intense development, the technology still holds great promise in the struggle for globalized human rights standards.

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