Health, Gender, and Blockchain for Financial Inclusion

By Adam Fishman* –  SDG Knowledge Hub

Building on recent SDG Knowledge Weekly discussions of activities relating to gender, health and finance, this week’s brief unpacks the interlinked issues of water, health and gender, which were among the priority development topics discussed in Davos. This column also examines blockchain technology, which presents new opportunities to leverage additional funding for achieving the SDGs.

Researchers from The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (US) have examined environmental conditions at healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The study notes an information gap on safe environmental conditions, and that baseline data for healthcare facilities (HCFs) “have yet to be formed” for issues that correspond to the SDGs. Key findings relating to SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) include that half of HCFs lack piped water, and hand soap and improved toilets are lacking in over a third of HCFs. On SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), the researchers found that nearly 60% of HCFs lack reliable electricity. Only 2% of HCFs provide all water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management services, indicating a need to focus efforts on achieving SDG 3 (good health and well-being) in LMICs. A summary news piece is available on SciDev.

Connecting SDG 6 to gender equality (SDG 5), the 2018 Vienna UN Conference convened from 10-12 January 2018 in Austria, on the theme ‘Achieving Gender Equality and Female Empowerment: A Collaborative Vision of SDG 5.’ One day of the conference focused on ‘Women and Resources,’ covering multi-dimensional access issues (to both natural and economic resources). In Depth News coverage summarizes the connections between women and water for sustainable development.

On gender equality, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) published a working paper titled, ‘Violence Against Women and Girls and Resilience,’ which links SDGs 5, 13 (climate action) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The authors examine empirical evidence on how violence can influence processes of social change, and find that the impacts of violence against women and girls are detrimental not only to survivors themselves and their households, but also negatively impact resilience capacities in response to disasters and climate change. The paper is an output of ODI’s Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) project.

On women’s, children’s and adolescent health, UNICEF published its ‘2017 Countdown to 2030’ report. The report analyzes data on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition for 81 priority countries. (Combined, these countries account for 95% of maternal deaths and 90% of deaths among children under age 5.) Key messages call for investments to be guided by timely data on intervention coverage and quality of care, and note that in order to achieve the SDGs relating to women’s, children’s and adolescent health, there must be improvements to measurements of vital statistics. On mortality targets, the authors highlight the urgency of the issue and acceleration of pace needed: if society is to achieve the SDG targets relating to mortality, “the average annual rate of reduction during 2015-30 in the 50 highest mortality Countdown countries will need to more than double the rate during 2000-15.”

On gender and natural resource management, journalist Sally Nyakanyanga writes on IPS News the stories of ‘women on the front lines of halting deforestation.’ Zooming in on Zimbabwe, the article highlights how a local women-led cooperative has yielded sustainable economic growth in a manner that contributes to SDG 15 attainment (life on land). Intergovernmental actors involved in supporting the cooperative and similar initiatives include the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

Bitcoin’s skyrocketing prices in late 2017 brought the conversation on its underlying technology, blockchain, to the fore. As many in the international community have noticed, the technology—which, among other uses, enables transfers of funds on a peer-to-peer basis—can be applied to serve sustainable development outcomes. UN Women is exploring ways of leveraging blockchain to provide humanitarian solutions, while the German Development Institute (DIE) released the discussion paper, ‘A Primer on Blockchain Technology and its Potential for Financial Inclusion.’ The paper highlights the possibilities for facilitating remittances, which is also discussed in this Deutsche Welle article and this World Bank blog. This is in direct contribution to SDG target 10.c, which aims to “reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances.” However, the author also outlines blockchain’s volatility and risks, and notes a possible trade-off with SDG 13 due to increasing use of electricity, particularly in areas where it is primarily derived from fossil fuel sources.

Stay tuned next week for more on finance and opportunities for the private sector!

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*Thematic Expert for 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (US)

 

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