Linklaters supports UNHCR on first-of-its-kind blockchain payment solution providing humanitarian assistance in Ukraine

Linklaters’ global Fintech team has provided pro bono advice to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on the launch of a first-of-its-kind blockchain payment solution for distribution of financial assistance to internally displaced persons in Ukraine. The solution will allow funds to reach vulnerable people on the move, at speed.

The pilot project enables UNHCR to deliver humanitarian assistance in USD Coin directly to beneficiaries’ digital wallets, without the need for a bank account. Depending on need, beneficiaries will be able to either convert the received aid into fiat cash or transport their funds securely in their digital wallets. This will help individuals impacted by the war, particularly those unable to access banks, to cover basic needs like accommodation, food, medical care and heating.

The programme was piloted in Kyiv, Lviv, and Vinnytsia and will expand to other locations. The initial pilot phase of the project was designed specifically for Ukraine but the use of the blockchain technology can be adapted to other humanitarian contexts.

Lance Bartholomeusz, UNHCR’s General Counsel, said:

“UNHCR is grateful for Linklaters’ outstanding support on this project. Linklaters’ expert legal counsel and knowledge of the latest developments in a fast-moving environment enabled UNHCR to advance this innovative project quickly. UNHCR also benefited from Linklaters’ counsel in understanding and navigating the risks that come with engaging in new areas. We look forward to continuing to work with Linklaters.”

Richard Hay, Counsel and UK Head of Fintech at Linklaters, commented:

“It has been a real privilege for the Linklaters team to be able to support UNHCR with this important work. The creation of this innovative blockchain payment solution is an example of how advancing technology can be leveraged to bring humanitarian aid to those who have been left particularly vulnerable with increased speed and efficiency. We are extremely proud to have worked closely with UNHCR on this milestone project and look forward to continuing to support their invaluable work in the future.”

Working closely with Linklaters’ dedicated pro bono team, the cross-practice Linklaters lawyers involved in the project included: partners Carl Fernandes, Julian Cunningham-Day and Michael Voisin, counsel Richard Hay, and associates Agata Siuchninska, Ben Teji, Megan Gosling, and Olivia Murphy.

Linklaters is committed to leveraging its expertise and resources to deliver positive social impact – find out more about the firm’s social impact work around the world here.