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UN IGF ‘coalition’ to pilot distributed autonomous organisation for public sector

Blockchain: DAOs are growing in prominence globally | Credit: Gerd Altmann (Pixabay)

A pilot project aimed at establishing a distributed autonomous organisation (DAO) – an emerging type of organisational structure reliant on blockchain technology – for use by the public sector globally has been announced.

The United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Dynamic Coalition on Blockchain Assurance and Standardisation describes the initiative as a ‘collaborative effort showcasing how public sector organisations can leverage blockchain technology and DAO principles to foster transparent, rules-based and high-integrity governance structures’.

In a DAO (often also referred to as ‘decentralised autonomous organisations’), decision-making and governance processes are encoded into smart contracts on a blockchain, enabling members to participate in activities without the need for traditional hierarchical structures, the announcement explains. DAOs typically use digital tokens for voting and decision-making, with their rules immutably recorded on the blockchain. ‘This decentralised approach aims to create trust, transparency and efficiency, allowing members to collectively manage resources, make decisions and execute actions based on predefined rules without the need for centralised control,’ the announcement adds.

“This initiative signifies a pivotal step toward establishing innovative and secure governance models, ensuring that blockchain technology can be harnessed for the benefit of public sector organisations,” said New York City-based Dino Cataldo Dell’Accio, chief information officer at the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, who is one of two co-leaders of the initiative.

The IGF, which has recently entered its 19th year, exists to facilitate year-round global dialogue on digital public policy to ‘inform and inspire those with policy-making power in the public and private sectors’. Institutionally, it is supported by a secretariat administered by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Its ‘dynamic coalitions’ are independent entities that exist to ‘bring together diverse stakeholders to collaborate on focused topics, foster dialogue and produce outputs such as reports and guidelines.’

Coalition’s current members

The ‘Dynamic Coalition on Blockchain Assurance and Standardisation’ is being hosted by the US-headquartered Government Blockchain Association (GBA), whose executive director Gerard Dache is co-leading the initiative alongside Dell’Accio.

At time of writing (16 January) the coalition has 27 members, with most working in the public sector and a relatively high US-based presence. Those involved also include people working for UK government departments, as well as central banks in Brazil and Nigeria. Global Government Fintech lists all those involved at the end of this article. They are meeting monthly.  

The technology being used for the pilot has been ‘donated’ by a GBA member, Gosh. It is described as an ‘Ethereum Layer 2 solution that allows developers to run smart contracts on-chain for free’. Ethereum is a blockchain-based network that follows a set of rules called the Ethereum protocol. A ‘Layer 2 solution’ is an extension built on top of the main Ethereum blockchain (Layer 1). ‘On-chain’ is a reference to ‘on-blockchain’.

Pre-existing DAOs include Dash, which is also a crypto-currency, and Uniswap, an ethereum-based crypto-currency exchange. Many DAOs are involved in software engineering — developing, modifying and maintaining open-source software infrastructure.

But uncertainty exists in many jurisdictions about DAOs’ legal status. In the UK, for example, the Law Commission of England and Wales has run a call for evidence examining how DAOs can be characterised and how the law might accommodate them ‘now and in the future’. A follow-up scoping paper is expected in the first half of this year.

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Cross-cutting challenges

The UN IGF pilot is proceeding in liaison with other GBA working groups, including those focused on ‘Application Architecture’, ‘Digital Asset Management’, ‘DAO Governance’ and ‘Legal & Legislative’.

As well as its ongoing dialogues, an annual IGF meeting – convened by the UN secretary-general – takes place in a different host country each year. The 2024 edition will be held Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, following the 2023 IGF in Kyoto, Japan, last October. The meeting’s programme is developed by a ‘multi-stakeholder advisory group’.

In the financial arena, the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), the Spain-headquartered global standard setter for securities market regulators, last month published a ‘Final Report with Policy Recommendations for Decentralised Finance (DeFi)’ – a 66-page report including 22 mentions of DAOs.

Its nine policy recommendations aim to address market integrity and investor protection concerns arising from DeFi by supporting greater consistency of regulatory frameworks and oversight in member jurisdictions.

Its recommendations cover six main areas: understanding DeFi arrangements and structures; achieving common standards of regulatory outcomes; identification and management of key risks; ‘clear, accurate and comprehensive’ disclosures; enforcement of applicable laws; and cross-border co-operation.


UN IFG ‘Dynamic Coalition on Blockchain Assurance & Standardisation’ members

Government (public sector)

  • Aldenio Burgos, Central Bank of Brazil
  • Michael Faniyi, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria
  • Chikezie Isiguzo, Central Bank of Nigeria
  • Zayed Salih Al Hemairy, Ministry of Community Development, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Argentina Hung, Department for Education, UK
  • Gintare Geleziunaite, Department for International Trade, UK
  • Lori Cooper, Department for International Trade, UK
  • Jean-Robert Baguidy, Department of Commerce, US
  • Joshua Hakakian, Program Specialist – National Artificial Intelligence Institute, US
  • Omar Bouaichi, Department of Housing & Urban Development, US
  • Omri Gross, Department of Housing & Urban Development, US
  • Kyra Brown, Tennessee State Government, US State and Local Government
  • Mark Wheeler, City of Philadelphia, US State and Local Government
  • Kelli Caldwell, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, US State and Local Government
  • Frank Hernandez, Washington DC Government, US State and Local Government
  • Amelia Powers Gardner, Utah County Commissioner, US State and Local Government
  • Carlos Ivan Merino, New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce, US State and Local Government
  • Doningnon Soro, Empire State Development (New York State Government), US State and Local Government
  • Hoan Pham Quoc, Ministry of Information & Communications, Vietnam

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

  • Dino Dell’Accio, United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (joint-cordinator)
  • Gerard Dache, Government Blockchain Association (joint-coordinator)
  • Sary Qasim, Government Blockchain Association, Middle East & North Africa

Professional associations

  • Meiyappan Masilamani, International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA)

Academia

  • Jim Liew, Johns Hopkins University (US)
  • Manu Kumar Shetty, Maulana Azad Medical College (India)

Private sector

  • Muhammad Saleem, Nexus Telecom
  • Haimanot Anbesaw Bobosha, Dish Networks

Source: https://intgovforum.org/en/content/dynamic-coalition-on-blockchain-assurance-and-standardization-dc-bas (16 January 2024)