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IPFS News Link • Economic Theory

CBDCs' threat to freedom put under the microscope at Oslo conference


Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are a source of deep concern among the public. That was made clear at last week's Oslo Freedom Forum. While the risk of governments abusing their power is something that concerns many people, it is particularly true for those who are fighting for freedom under authoritarian regimes. 

If you are not familiar, the Oslo Freedom Forum is an annual gathering hosted by the Human Rights Foundation in Oslo, Norway. It's a time for human rights activists to share experiences under authoritarian regimes as well as share calls to action for carving out a brighter future.

For my part, I spent the first two days teaching people about what is happening in the world of CBDCs with the help of an installment piece created by the Human Rights Foundation.

Again and again, I heard the same response from activists, government officials, and citizens. They would say, "I had no idea my country was doing this." While it was inspiring to see the HRF CBDC Tracker proving to be so helpful, it was also disheartening to see how much the public has been left out of the loop.

In the context of the Oslo Freedom Forum, it's easy to see why people would be concerned by these developments. From Russia to Nicaragua, governments repeatedly turn to the financial system as a means to control the opposition. Consider the experiences of Carlos Chamorro, Jimmy Lai, and Alexei Navalny.

Over a year ago, the Nicaraguan government declared Carlos Chamorro both stateless and a traitor to the country. His pension, his home, and all of his assets were seized. What was his crime? Chamorro spoke out against Daniel Ortega's dictatorship and created a news organization that could be trusted to expose the regime.

In Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai is currently facing life in prison for similar charges. Like Chamorro, Lai did not hold back in criticizing those in power and created a newspaper to help spread calls for democracy. In response to both Lai and others in the pro-democracy protests, the Hong Kong government froze financial accounts and seized assets to silence the opposition.