San Francisco, CA – December 15, 2022 – Today, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), a nonprofit that supports the growth and development of the public Stellar blockchain network, announced the pilot of a first-of-its-kind blockchain-powered aid disbursement system in Ukraine. The pilot is one of the first implementations of a novel end-to-end cash assistance system built on the Stellar blockchain, Stellar Aid Assist, that delivers relief funds quickly, affordably, and with transparency to individuals in crisis.
Stellar Aid Assist enhances the IRC's existing cash assistance efforts by leveraging a digital dollar backed by fully reserved assets — in this instance, the USD Coin (USDC) issued by Circle Internet Financial — and distributes them almost instantly to a digital wallet on a client’s smartphone — in this instance, Vibrant. It allows individuals to remotely receive digital dollars, hold them as a store of value to hedge against inflation, and transport them more securely across borders as needed, instead of providing individuals with physical cash that may be difficult or dangerous to store and move. It also allows clients in Ukraine to receive their cash assistance even if they do not have a bank account or credit or debit card, as they can store it on a digital wallet on their phones and convert the digital dollars to real currency almost anywhere in the world through MoneyGram’s 400K+ agent locations in 175 countries.
The IRC and partners are responding to the conflict-driven humanitarian emergency in Ukraine by providing unrestricted multipurpose cash assistance to almost 83,500 people affected by the crisis to date. So far this month, the IRC and SDF have provided USDC to 33 people, with the ultimate goal of reaching 100 people across southeastern Ukraine under this pilot.
Thanks to the use of the Stellar blockchain, this innovative solution has the potential to enhance the speed, efficiency, flexibility of traditional cash-based inventions, as well as provides greater transparency for IRC and its donors through the traceability of funds. It has the potential to lay the groundwork for future financial innovation for cash assistance and donation programs, with the opportunity to grow a global ecosystem of digital wallets and cash on/off ramps serving different contexts and geographies.
The IRC is committed to finding innovative solutions to the challenges faced by people in humanitarian disasters. With more people displaced globally than ever before and more than 6.5 million IDPs in Ukraine alone, funding for humanitarian responses is proportionally at the lowest point in years. Finding faster, cheaper, and more effective aid distribution methods builds on the IRC’s commitment to a ‘cash first’ approach, and its leadership in using cash assistance in the humanitarian sector. With this collaboration, the IRC and SDF are advancing an innovative form of cash assistance to test the impact of stablecoins and measure the effectiveness of stablecoin distributions in humanitarian settings.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said: "The IRC is committed to finding innovative solutions to the challenges faced by people impacted by humanitarian disasters. Our partnership with the Stellar Development Foundation enables the IRC to offer a new way for clients in Ukraine to receive much needed cash assistance, including the option to receive assistance in USD, which is essential in helping to rebuild their lives. This partnership will help the IRC better leverage new technologies to continue improving the effectiveness and efficiencies of our multipurpose cash programming."
Denelle Dixon, CEO and Executive Director, Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), said: “For vulnerable populations, cash-based interventions are a lifeline, helping to access essential goods and giving recipients freedom, power, and dignity. Our mission at SDF - creating equitable access to the global financial system - is about using technology to reach people where they are and when they need it most. That’s why we are proud to partner with the International Rescue Committee and together, pioneer the future of aid delivery on the Stellar network with Stellar Aid Assist.”
About International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people affected by humanitarian crises to survive, recover and rebuild their lives. We deliver lasting impact by providing health care, helping children learn, and empowering individuals and communities to become self-reliant, always with a focus on the unique needs of women and girls. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, we now work in over 40 crisis affected countries as well as communities throughout Europe and the Americas.
Stellar is a decentralized, fast, scalable, and uniquely sustainable network for financial products and services. It is both a cross-currency transaction system and a platform for digital asset issuance, designed to connect the world’s financial infrastructure. Financial institutions worldwide issue assets and settle payments on the Stellar network, which has grown to over 7 million accounts. For more information, visit stellar.org.
About the Stellar Development Foundation
The Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) is a non-profit organization that supports the development and growth of Stellar, an open-source network that connects the world’s financial infrastructure. Founded in 2014, the Foundation helps maintain Stellar’s codebase, supports the technical and business communities building on the network, and serves as a voice to regulators and institutions. The Foundation seeks to create equitable access to the global financial system, using the Stellar network to unlock the world’s economic potential through blockchain technology. For more information, visit stellar.org/foundation.