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A Response to the United Nations CITES Blockchain Challenge: Incremental and Integrative PoA-based Permit Exchange

Busse, Anselm; Eberhardt, Jacob; Frost, Sebastian; Kim, Dong-Ha; Weilbier, Thore; Renner, Lukas; Roth, Matthias; Tai, Stefan

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) negotiated and administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regulates the international trade of endangered species and derived products through a permit-based system. Currently, the permit process is paper-based and hence highly prone to manipulations and errors. Being aware of blockchains' potential, the CITES Secretariat defined a challenge to determine whether a blockchain-based system can address the aforementioned issues and serve as a secure, efficient, and affordable permit processing system. In this paper, we respond to the CITES Blockchain Challenge. First, we analyze the permit process and discuss how blockchain systems can improve that process in a way traditional systems cannot. Building on these results, we design a blockchain-based system that enables secure, manipulation resistant permit validation, produces an immutable record of processed permits, and is in compliance with the CITES agreement. To evaluate this design, we developed a proof-of-concept implementation compatible with the paper-based permit process and deployed it to a Proof-of-Authority-based blockchain network. This allows incremental adoption and integration with the existing process, thereby increasing acceptance and addressing affordability. Finally, we describe how a blockchain- based system could disruptively improve the established permit process by enforcing quotas and tracking provenance.
Published in: 2019 IEEE International Conference on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, 10.1109/BLOC.2019.8751373, IEEE

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