From political dissidents to conflict refugees to people without formal identification, centralised financial platforms have excluded a swath of disfavoured, but not necessarily criminal, user categories. To what degree is crypto a viable alternative for financially excluded individuals and organisations? Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation, answered this question at the CoinDesk Consensus 2023 conference.
In addition to the ODF President, the panel entitled Rebanking the Debanked, Replatforming the Deplatformed, held on Tuesday, 27 April 2023, featured:
- Andriy Velykyy — a Warwick Business School alumnus who joined the crypto space in 2015, starting with building mining farms. In 2016 he began working on the crypto payments integrations with Point-of-Sale devices (NCR included), cyber security and non-custodial multi-chain crypto wallets with future Allbridge co-founder Yuriy Savchenko. In May 2021, they launched Allbridge, feeling the lack of cross-chain products on the market. Since then, Allbridge has become the leading bridging solution, with over $6.4 billion in bridged volume and offering the support of 18 different EVM and non-EVM networks. In September 2022, a new stablecoin-focused product was launched, enabling seamless cross-chain swaps of stablecoin assets between Ethereum, BNB Chain, Polygon, Tron and Solana.
- Anna Baydakova — an investigative reporter with a focus on real-life use cases for crypto, from money laundering and sanctions evasion to empowering communities abandoned by mainstream finance. During the event, she moderated the discussion.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska has made it a goal of her recent work to recommend that EU regulators support civil society activists using Bitcoin and stablecoins to address financial exclusion, political oppression and the delivery of humanitarian aid. During the panel, she outlined three reasons why she started using Bitcoin.
“Firstly, we were forced to use Bitcoin as a ‘bank of last resort’ due to the fact that we were deprived of the right to use traditional financial instruments such as banking or insurance services as a result of political persecution by authoritarian or illiberal regimes where we had defended the rule of law, judges and human rights. When I was expelled from Poland and moved to Belgium, and the banks there started closing our bank accounts one by one, we started using Bitcoin to raise funds to survive, being in the heart of Europe,” she recounted.
The second reason was the opportunity to support the families of political prisoners and human rights defenders in authoritarian countries with the help of Bitcoin. As part of the coalition, the Open Dialogue Foundation manages the BTC Coalition in Europe, which includes activists from Kazakhstan, Belarus, Turkey, Russia, African countries and Palestine.
After the outbreak of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was time to organise humanitarian aid — and here Bitcoin showed another possibility: “In my case, the speed of Bitcoin is being used to save lives in Ukraine, especially after the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war, when we were able to send 100 bulletproof vests and helmets and hundreds of medical kits to Ukrainians on the very next day of the invasion. To date, we have raised over EUR 7 million and delivered over 7,000 pieces of protective equipment to Ukraine. All of this is thanks to the fact that we were able to organise the fundraising in the shortest possible time. For us, this is not just a currency, but a tool that helps save lives,” Kozlovska stressed.
The entire panel discussion can be viewed by registering at consensus2023.coindesk.com.
- BTC Coalition: summary of works 2022-2023 (November 28, 2023)
- Joint submission of the civil society coalition: Tools to prevent abuse of FATF anti-money laundering/financing of terrorism rules and address transnational repression (November 27, 2023)
- Bitcoin’s role in Guatemala’s Digitally Safeguarded Democracy (November 10, 2023)
- How Bitcoin became a tool for NGOs — an interview with Lyudmyla Kozlovska (October 6, 2023)
- Showing Humanitarian Face of Bitcoin at Central Bankers’ Forum (June 13, 2023)
- Italian legislators: stop and prevent the abuse of AML/CFT laws by dictators (April 19, 2023)