What began just over 10 months ago as high-level conversations around blockchain technology culminated this week with what was arguably the world’s most significant blockchain conference. Hosted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and designed for regulators and industry participants, the OECD Blockchain Policy Forum was the most important discussion around the deployment of blockchain in dozens of industries to date. The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization committed to democracy and developing best practices across domestic and international policy that lead to improved social, economic, and environmental health on a global scale.
As a premier sponsor for the event, SALT is proud to say that our Co-Founder and Director of Global Strategy, Benjamin Yablon, has not only served as Special Advisor to the OECD for the past year, but also that he had the opportunity to represent SALT this week as a company leading the global conversation around blockchain.
According to Ben, the forum led to three major positive outcomes, all of which illustrate the promise of blockchain and the international community’s ability to work together to fulfill that promise:
Broad-based solutions and guiding principles: there are many broad-based solutions and programs that have been put forward by various entities, any one of which are valid and would be really helpful for creating greater alignment among industry leaders. Holding theBlockchain Policy Forum at the OECD has helped drive these ideas forward. It’s allowed a broad group of international industry participants and regulators to review and discuss proposed solutions and guiding principles.
Principles-based policy discussions: the event fostered discussions and achieved consensus that in order to continue ascending with blockchain tech, we need to hold principles-based policy discussions rather than regulation-based policy discussions. This makes it far easier to identify, agree upon, and discuss key issues, allowing us to address them almost immediately. For example, the majority of participants agreed money laundering and terror finance are top issues, and there’s been significant movement on these fronts in the past two days.
Recognition of the true potential of blockchain tech: a broader set of people have come to recognize that assets of all kinds are moving onto the blockchain; that representations of nearly everything of value will exist on blockchains; and that the power of this level of recognition crosses far beyond financial services. It also impacts areas such as supply chains, immigration, and healthcare. All of these conversations interoperate, and what were not previously considered financial instruments are going to begin to behave as such.
“The sheer fact that three heads of state attended the forum speaks to the fact that a broader audience is recognizing the value of blockchain technology,” said Benjamin Yablon. “This level of international participation is unheard of in this emerging space and I’m grateful to both José Ángel Gurría Treviño, Secretary-General of the OECD, and Greg Medcraft, Director of the Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs of the OECD, for allowing me to contribute in an advisory capacity with a platform starting to address the OECD directorate in such a direct way. Our collaborative work is what made this Forum happen.”
Ben is looking forward to continuing to serve as an advisor to the OECD, helping to shape the global narrative around blockchain, and execute on many of the ideas and proposals that came out of this week’s Forum. “There’s more interest and excitement around this topic than you can imagine, and the
OECD was the perfect conveyer to have this type of discussion, primarily because the global ecosystem values the OECD as a neutral standard setting body that is uniquely positioned to bring our voices together for the greater good — an environment that others just can’t offer,” he said.
As Ben noted in his panel discussion earlier this week, achieving mass adoption of blockchain technology and digital financial assets will require the development of a taxonomy — an agreed-upon set of terms and definitions that will enable us to speak about these concepts in way that drives understanding and alignment among industry and governmental leaders. “Once we have a true taxonomy, principles-based regulatory frameworks will to start to exist,” Ben noted.
It’s clear from this week’s forum that a lot of progress has been made in the past couple of days, but it’s even more evident that there’s still a great deal of work to be done. It will take years to bring this process to maturity, but as long as we have solid leaders in place to guide discussions, propose solutions, and make decisions, we can feel confident that we’re heading in the right direction.
OECD Blockchain Policy Forum: Maximizing the Potential of Blockchain will require LEADERSHIP
“The opportunities of the long-term developments of blockchain far outweigh its risks.”
These are the words with which Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth kicked off the OECD Blockchain Policy Forum. Not only did these words set the stage for the event, but they reflect the very sentiment of it — it’s not about whether we should take blockchain to the next level, but how we should go about doing so. Leadership was the recurring theme throughout the day’s discussions and, more specifically, how we as leaders have a responsibility to leverage blockchain technology in ways that benefit the greater good.
As Editor of The Economist and today’s emcee, Anne McElvoy, so elegantly put it, “At first we thought this technology was the engine of security, then it was thought to be the engine of trust — and it is all that — but I think of it as the engine of innovation.” While blockchain has changed the way we think about security and trust via trustless transactions, it now calls on us to continuously develop new ways to apply the technology to our everyday lives. How can we leverage blockchain technology to positively impact our societies and economies? How can we continue pushing the limits of innovation when there are still so many variables? What steps can we take as an international community to drive universal alignment and understanding as it relates to blockchain tech? Collaborative leaders — people committed to working together to effect change — will be paramount to pushing blockchain technology to its full potential.
As an advisor to the OECD for the past year, it was exciting to see SALT’s co-founder and Head of Global Strategy, Ben Yablon, foster discussion around these challenges during his panel, titled “Building a Global Policy Environment for Digital Financial Assets.” Of note, he touched on the need to develop a single lexicon as an initial step toward creating a framework around how we describe blockchain technology and digital financial assets. It’s an ongoing discussion, and I’m proud that Ben will continue to offer his leadership to the OECD on how to begin working through some of blockchain’s biggest roadblocks. While there were numerous panelists and speakers at the event, all with different expertise and perspectives, the underlying theme of all of them was the same — we must take it upon ourselves to ensure we are leveraging blockchain technology in the best ways and remaining open-minded as we think about the opportunity it creates for the world.