There has been a lot of hype around blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) in displacement contexts – from creating digital identities to providing cheaper remittances – but the extent to which this hype corresponds to real applications and benefits for refugees is unclear based on the information available at the time of writing. When it comes to vulnerable displaced populations, the exploration of these new technologies raises even more pressing ethical questions and concerns.
This paper sets out to explore the following questions: to what extent is blockchain and DLT in the humanitarian sector being developed and invested in for the sake of disruption, reinforcing or replacing existing power structures? What is the real value of blockchain and DLT to displaced people? Can blockchain and DLT solutions enable true agency and empowerment for displaced populations?