Oil, food, corruption and blockchains – a retrospective examination of Iraq’s Oil for Food Programme
Ewikowski, M and Griggs, L, Oil, food, corruption and blockchains - a retrospective examination of Iraq's Oil for Food Programme, Journal of Law and Information Science, 25, (2) pp. 1-20. ISSN 0729-1485 (2018) [Refereed Article]
Blockchain technology is touted to be a cure for many of the world’s ills. It is said the technology can decentralise government power, increase security, guarantee privacy. In the context of this article, blockchain technology is also said to improve the distribution of foreign aid from wealthy countries to those nations less fortunate. The thesis of this article is that foreign aid programs should approach claims about the benefits of blockchain technology with some caution. In establishing this thesis, we explain what the technology involves, and then retrospectively consider how this technology could have assisted (or not assisted) the Iraq Food for Oil Programme. This thesis examines the shortcomings of blockchains, including the difficulty of tracing convertible goods (like wheat) through a single blockchain, and their dependence upon human and organisational cooperation to achieve anti-corruption outcomes. We perform our analysis primarily through a hypothetical application of blockchain to the Programme. Hindsight informs us that traditional anti-corruption tools were ineffective against the exploitation that occurred within the Programme. Our conclusion is that in most instances, blockchain anti-corruption tools would have been equally ineffective. We suggest that the use of blockchain technology be matched with additional measures to address the shortcomings of the technology in the distribution of foreign aid. It is only a combination of appropriate governance together with the technology that can deliver the outcomes that foreign aid providers seek.
law, blockchains, foreign aid, corruption, anti-corruption, international governance