Can Crypto Money Save the World?  



A team of St. John’s University graduate students (Master’s in International Communication) will present on 1/16/2017 at a high-level experts workshop on Agenda 2020 and youth employment, in Vienna, Austria.

This is their presentation as a policy brief:

Can Crypto Money Save the World?

Assessing the Potential of Digital Currency

St. John’s University: Hallelujah Lewis, Chenjiazi Li, Mia Ross, Chiang Zhu, co-authored with Xiaoyu Lu

Executive Summary

Cryptocurrencies, and the related blockchain technologies, offer opportunities for youth employment, in support of numerous UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The benefits are not only economic, but support youth in human rights and crisis situations (gender equality, identification). In order to utilize cryptocurrencies and blockchain for sustainable development, the UN needs to take a leading role in promoting and utilizing the technology, more information on best practices needs to be documented and analyzed; and a common platform for stakeholders needs to be established.


Digital currencies, cryptocurrencies and the related peer-to-peer blockchain technology in particular, have in recent years been discussed as possible drivers for youth employment, and development in general. There are numerous projects developing this technology for non-profit, development work purposes, and several UN-funded analyses on the potential of cryptocurrencies. However, our aim has been to offer an overall outlook on how cryptocurrencies relate to SDGs, especially to youth.


In our research, we have looked at cases of cryptocurrencies that can inform us about their potential in development, from the perspective of individuals, organizations, and global development, including the SDGs. We identified challenges and risks of cryptocurrency implementation, including user ability, volatile vale, security stability and its attraction for criminal use.  Risks notwithstanding, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies have the potential provide agency in several ways:

1. Economic development and entrepreneurship: Transparency of transactions, mobile payments and real-time managements of supply chain provides opportunity of economic growth and development (Goals 2, 8, and 9).

2. Addressing the migrant issues by tracking and management of identities in order to provide opportunities for the displaced. (2030 Agenda Declaration).

3. Instant remittances for the global south, particularly during fiscal crisis (Goal 9, target 10.c).

4. Reducing inequality within and among countries and between genders by offering more equal opportunities of access to financial transactions  (Goals 10 and  5).

5. Better records of medical history which promotes healthy living and quality education (Goal 3 and Goal 4).

6. Faster and efficient fundraising for projects (e.g.,  clean water projects; Goal 6).

7. Youth empowerment: The above factors are particularly beneficial to youth: With technological knowledge and potential to learn, they offer opportunities for empowerment, employment, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Conclusion and Recommendations

For cryptocurrencies to have a global impact in sustainable development, peer-to-peer society needs to be strengthened: Digital technology creates data for us to understand patterns of problems, but also makes the entire world our potential “peers” that we can contact, collaborate, and work with. We have identified three concrete steps that can be taken to promote the benefits of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in development, and in youth employment in particular:

1. The role of the UN to promote blockchain solutions for SDGs is particularly important. The role can be practical, as in including and using cryptocurrencies in its programmes and other operations, as well as educational and informational, promoting knowledge and acceptance of vetted cryptocurrencies in collaborations between the UN, and the member states. In supporting, documenting and assessing progress of SDGs, special emphasis can be given to blockchain-related efforts that deal with youth.

2. Universities and related organizations should be invited, and supported, to engage in further research on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, specifically in the framework of SDGs. There are promising cases and examples, but the data and take-aways of innovation are not systematically collected and analyzed.

3. Finally, a coordinated global effort of information and innovation exchange about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and development, should be set up, to bring together various stakeholders from the UN, member states, for-profit, and non-profit sectors. There are many organizations currently working on the field, for profit and for development, but a common platform would guarantee development of impactful initiatives as well as standards.

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