UN Women and Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Government’s instrument for innovation and development of enterprises, are partnering to accelerate the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment through innovative technology solutions. UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director, Yannick Glemarec, and Innovation Norway’s CEO, Anita Krohn Traaset, signed the first Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations on March 7, 2017 at a high-level event in Trondheim, Norway, where the guests of honour included the Crown princess Mette Marit and Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende.
By the current rate of progress, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will not be possible, and women and girls in humanitarian crises impacted contexts are at most risk of being left behind. For example, maternal mortality in humanitarian crises and in fragile settings is 1.9 times the world average, and the number of maternal deaths in these countries represent 61 per cent of the total number of maternal deaths worldwide.
Innovation and technology provide unprecedented opportunities to reach those who are the farthest and hardest to reach by breaking isolation and creating economies of scale to accelerate the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
By working together, UN Women and Innovation Norway will enhance innovative approaches and solutions in response to addressing gender inequality issues, particularly in humanitarian contexts. The collaboration will also help to identify future public-private partnerships and strengthen the private sector’s engagement in generating innovations.
“During our stay here in Norway we have visited incubators and met with Norwegian entrepreneurs that develop innovative humanitarian solutions that can strengthen women’s empowerment. UN Women believes that this agreement is the beginning of a close partnership that will enable us to build stronger ties between the needs that we identify in our work and the innovative products that are being developed,” said Mr. Glemarec.
The partnership between UN Women and Innovation Norway will create platforms and projects, which will include exploring making blockchain technology work for women and girls. Blockchain technology offers users the ability to build and maintain immutable and secure personal records and to directly transfer digital assets without the need for intermediaries and associated costs. Thus, women and girls in crises will be able to have safe records of documents that are essential to rebuilding their lives and for economic activities. UN Women will participate in a hackathon at the Katapult Future Fest taking place in Norway in May to explore the potential of blockchain as a solution to some of the problems that women face in humanitarian contexts.
“This agreement makes the Norwegian private sector and innovation a bigger part of the solution”, said Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende.
Broadly, the collaboration between UN Women and Innovation Norway will focus on:
Enhancing innovative approaches and solutions to address gender inequality issues;
Promoting women, especially marginalized groups, as both producers and consumers of innovations;
Promoting public-private partnerships and strengthening the private sector’s engagement in innovations to accelerate gender equality and women’s empowerment, notably through competency building and knowledge sharing;
Sharing best practices, methodologies, and lessons learned around innovations to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment;
Promoting the Sustainable Development Goals.
UN Women believes that strong partnerships such as this, can help women and girls to design, shape and benefit from the technological transformations and innovations changing our world. (Source: unwomen.org)
UN Women, in partnership with the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN OICT) and with the support of Innovation Norway, hosted a four-day simulation lab to explore cutting-edge solutions based on blockchain technologies that address challenges faced by women and girls in humanitarian settings.
“Being the only UN agency created in the 21st century, UN Women has prioritized innovation technology as one of the drivers for change, strategically leveraging innovation and partnership to accelerate progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Yannick Glemarec, UN Women Deputy Executive Director, during the opening session.
Natural disasters and conflicts exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and discriminations experienced by women and girls, heightening their vulnerability, and exposing them to disproportionately high levels of risk. At the same time, women also play a critical role in enabling effective, efficient and sustainable humanitarian response.
UN Women, together with partners, such as Innovation Norway, is committed to ensuring that humanitarian action responds to the needs and challenges of women and girls and leverages their active participation and leadership. While there has been some progress in this area, there remain significant gaps. Calling for “radical innovation,” Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen, Head of Humanitarian Innovation Initiatives, Programmes and Grants at Innovation Norway reminded participants, “there are too many people left behind in today’s humanitarian efforts.” Harnessing technologies such as blockchain is one of many ways that UN Women is working to strengthen humanitarian action.
Blockchain is a distributed database of immutable digital records that can be accessed from anywhere. It offers users the ability to build and maintain immutable and secure records and to directly transfer digital assets without the need for intermediaries and associated costs.
These attributes enable blockchain to be used to create and store verifiable digital identity for refugees as well as enable trackable and inexpensive cash transfers. As humanitarian crisis continues to be protracted over decades, with millions of people on the move, technology like blockchain can provide solutions to immediate and long-term challenges.
During the four-day event at the UN Women Headquarters in New York, seven blockchain technology solution-providers demonstrated their solutions to over 200 UN officials, representatives from Permanent Missions to the UN, blockchain technologists, humanitarian actors and academics.
Among the various areas of potential innovation and investment, UN Women has identified cash transfer and identity as areas to leverage blockchain technology to assist women and girls. UN Women will invite selected vendors to submit a ‘request for proposal’, after which the most suitable solutions will be piloted in humanitarian crisis settings. Supported by Innovation Norway, UN Women is committed to ensuring that this process continues to progress in close collaboration with UN and private sector partners.
“History shows that trends can be broken with innovation in policy, institutions, management models, finance, science and technology. Making innovation work for women is a key objective of UN Women,” said Mr. Glemarec. “Digital technologies can provide unprecedented solutions to address the fundamental needs of marginalized groups and those at the bottom of the pyramid.”