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On Nov. 14, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) will launch its CBDC Tracker at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. This new online tool tracks the development of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) around the world, with a focus on their rollout in authoritarian regimes and their threat to civil liberties. If you would like to attend, please email HRF Director of Financial Freedom, Christian Keroles, at [email protected] to RSVP.


A CBDC is a digital national currency. Like paper dollars or euros, CBDCs would be liabilities of central banks. Unlike paper dollars or euros, CBDCs would not offer the privacy protections, neutrality, or finality that cash provides. Here is a short video we made to help explain the difference.

Virtually all money today is already digital, but it is issued and controlled by private banks and fintech companies (even in dictatorships like China). When consumers use a credit card, spending is at the discretion of the corporation that issued the card. When consumers deposit money into their bank accounts, their funds are liabilities of the bank. CBDCs are an attempt to replace paper cash with government-issued and government-controlled digital credits. They also help reign in power from the private sector and expand the central government’s control over the economy.


Paper cash doesn’t require identification, can be used by anyone with no discrimination, and cannot be easily tracked. As such, cash is a daily tool of human rights activists, dissidents, and civil society, especially in authoritarian regimes. CBDCs stand to potentially phase out this tool for human rights defenders, making them entirely reliant on currency that is surveilled and easily frozen and censored. Unlike cash, CBDCs can even have expiration dates or blacklists. HRF believes CBDCs pose a significant threat to human rights work worldwide, especially for people living under tyranny.


As of November 2023, more than 100 countries are researching CBDCs, while more than 20 are in a pilot phase, and a handful of governments like Nigeria and China have already launched some kind of CBDC product to retail customers. Russia, India, the EU, the US, Brazil, and other major governments have all signaled intent to pursue CBDC projects. HRF considers it important to track these activities and document what risk they pose to human rights.


HRF’s CBDC Tracker will officially launch on Nov. 14 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at an event taking place from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m ET. Attendees will learn about the risks CBDCs pose, view and explore the CBDC tracker, and hear from a panel of experts addressing CBDC adoption in China, Nigeria, India, and beyond. To RSVP, please email [email protected].

The CBDC Tracker will go live online to the public on the same day. It is the first monitoring effort of its kind to focus specifically on the impact that CBDCs can have on civil liberties. HRF believes that CBDCs could give authoritarian regimes the power to micro-control citizen behavior, warranting a stiff response from civil society. Try out the Tracker yourself on Nov. 14 at hrf.org/cbdctracker.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact [email protected].