Design recommendations for a Retail Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)
Strong Value Proposition (SVP) and Tangible Benefits for Citizens
A retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) should have a strong value proposition (SVP) and tangible
benefits for citizens. The decision process should start with identifying the problem(s) to be solved with
CBDC and evaluating all alternative solutions. The CBDC option should be chosen only if it has a compelling
value proposition relative to the best alternatives. If the CBDC option is chosen, SVPs to other digital forms
of money are essential. To drive adoption, it is not sufficient to offer a new means of payment that has the
same features as today’s means of payment.
Potential SVPs of CBDCs for users are high privacy guarantees, both online and offline capabilities with no
need for later third-party approval or validation, low risk as a digital form of default-resistant central bank
money, and CBDC value units as part of an independent, sovereign, and sanction-resistant payment
infrastructure to ensure monetary sovereignty in uncertain times. For merchants, the SVPs are lower fees than
for currently existing means of payments and instant settlement. For companies/industry, features for
programmable payments and the use of smart contracts are SVPs.
Highest Degree of Privacy
A CBDC should provide the highest degree of privacy. In this context, a CBDC should supply technically
guaranteed privacy by design and by default, without the need to trust the central bank to preserve privacy.
The CBDC can be utilized, ideally, by anonymous payments for small- and medium-sized transactions.
Do No Harm Principle
A CBDC should not be designed in a way to do harm to society, e.g., via very negative interest rates, or
via so-called programmable money that restricts the use of money for specific types of expenditures (e.g.,
special food and beverages, computer games, etc.) or that expires after a certain amount of time. A CBDC
should be based on principles of self-determination and freedom.
Collaborative Approach Involving All Stakeholders
The development of a CBDC should follow a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders (central
banks, financial institutions, associations, end-users, companies, researchers, etc.) and have a well-defined
governance system. The design and development processes should be transparent, public, and open.
Ideally, a CBDC should be open-source and use open-source technology to increase transparency.
Technical, Regulatory, and Usage Interoperability
The CBDC should exhibit technical, regulatory and usage interoperability, both locally and globally.
The CBDC Manifesto in Detail
The process of creating an optimal retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) infrastructure is a
particularly challenging one. With differing macroeconomic situations, changing consumer needs,
and ever-evolving technology, central banks are confronted with a multitude of design approaches
that may guarantee specific CBDC features at the cost of others, thus leading to trade-offs. Such
trade-offs have been a topic of discussion in extant literature such as privacy versus compliance
trade-offs, distributed ledger technology (DLT) versus scalability trade-offs, or security versus
convenience trade-offs (Darbha & Arora, 2020; Engert & Fung, 2017; Mancini-Griffoli et al.,
2018). The presence of such trade-offs combined with jurisdiction-specific political aspirations
may circumscribe the CBDC design process, thus leading to the creation of a CBDC which is in
effect no different from the current retail digital payments and thus fails to offer any unique value.
In order to tackle such challenges in the design process and ensure the creation of an optimal CBDC
system, central banks must set up welfare-maximizing objectives from the very inception of the
CBDC design process. Such objectives play a crucial role in determining the direction of the design
process and significantly reduce the likelihood of developing a disoriented CBDC system that is
way beyond public expectations. Given the critical role of CBDC in the payments space and its
potential impacts on other parts of the economy (Chaum et al., 2021), five major CBDC design
recommendations are presented which can be used as a roadmap by central banks in advanced
economies (such as the USA or the euro area) to devise an optimal CBDC development plan. Also,
for central banks in developing and emerging market economies, this CBDC Manifesto can provide
A retail CBDC should have a clear use case and tangible benefits for citizens. Strong value
propositions (SVPs) to other forms of payment `are essential, and it includes (but is not limited
to) high privacy guarantees cash-like, both online and offline capabilities, programmability
Central banks should start the decision process by identifying the problem(s) to be solved with CBDC and
evaluating all alternative solutions. The nature and root causes of the country’s relevant challenges and pain
points in payments, financial, and broader economic systems should be closely studied and identified. Then,
the ability for CBDC to directly address those specific challenges and pain points should be very clearly
identified. It should also be clear how resolving the challenges and meeting the objectives serves the central
bank mandate and policy goals and ultimately, the welfare of all users.
Essential to the analysis is a thorough evaluation of the alternative and complementary solutions to achieving
the same objectives and goals. The feasibility, suitability, costs, and risks of the best alternative solution(s)
should be compared with those of CBDC for addressing the same challenges and goals. Given the costs and
risks involved with a CBDC deployment, it should not be implemented unless it has a compelling value
proposition relative to the best alternatives. The question now becomes: could CBDC be reasonably
expected to address those specific pain points and problems in a manner that is more feasible and more
likely to succeed than other policy interventions or private sector developments? Further, it should be
understood that a CBDC alone cannot solve all problems, and that other tools and policy interventions might
be appropriate to combine with a CBDC.
Should they go ahead with a plan to issue CBDC, central banks must clearly identify specific use cases of
the CBDC in their jurisdictions. Use cases will likely differ based on the jurisdiction. Therefore, a thorough
micro and macro-level evaluation will be needed to list the use cases in the order of priority. Many different
use cases exist such as peer-to-peer payments, consumer-to-business payments, business-initiated payments,
payments to and from the government, and programmable payments (European Central Bank, 2022a). These
use cases offer specific value propositions which can enable CBDC to differentiate itself from other forms
of digital money. However, to generate value for society, these use cases need to be described more
A well-designed CBDC can offer various benefits to its users. However, the extent of benefit depends on
the specific use case which is identified by the central bank and if it addresses the unmet needs of the users.
The central bank should acknowledge that issuing a CBDC that is in essence similar to the existing digital
payment methods may not create unique value for the citizens. A CBDC will only be adopted if it has clear
SVPs that result in tangible benefits for the citizens. In the case of an advanced economy, enhanced privacy
cash-like, offline digital payments, and increased efficiency of the payment system may create value for
society (European Central Bank, 2021; Patel & Ortlieb, 2020).
Reports from the European Central Bank (ECB) establish the importance of enhanced privacy in financial
transactions (European Central Bank, 2019; European Central Bank, 2020). Enhanced privacy may be
achieved through completely anonymous transactions up to a certain transaction limit (European Central
Bank, 2022b). At present, no regulated digital payment provider offers anonymous financial transactions
that comply with regulation. Given the importance of privacy amongst citizens, designing a CBDC with
high privacy considerations, one which offers the possibility of anonymous transactions until specific limits,
will cater to the citizens’ demand for enhanced privacy and may prove to be a unique feature of CBDC that
other existing payment providers have been unable to offer (Jiang, 2020).
One of the key features of cash is that no additional facilities such as smartphones or internet connections
are needed to exchange value and ensure settlement (Niepelt, 2021). Given that CBDC is intended to be the
digital form of cash, it is important that CBDC offers the benefits of cash such as offline payments
(Abramova et al., 2022). In an advanced economy, the functionality of offline payments would fulfill the
needs of certain sections of society that lack digital facilities or possess inadequate digital competency, thus
giving CBDC cash-like features and ensuring financial inclusion. The possibility to conduct offline
transactions in addition to the online transactional capability will also create a unique value for the users
since existing digital payment providers do not support such a functionality (Lee et al., 2021).
Bank deposits, which are also known as book money, represent a liability of the commercial bank to the
account holder. The CBDC, by contrast, is low risk as a digital form of default-resistant central bank money.
In uncertain times, CBDC value units can be used as part of an independent, sovereign, and sanctionresistant payment infrastructure to ensure monetary sovereignty. Projects in Switzerland and Brazil show
that this feature can drive large-scale adoption. TWINT, the leading payment app in Switzerland, allows
users to make convenient and secure payments with smartphones. Half of the Swiss population uses TWINT
on a regular basis. Pix, the instant payment system created by the Brazilian Central Bank, works 24/7, 365
days a year, and allows the recipient to receive funds in real time. It does not need intermediaries such as
card schemes, acquirers, or issuers to work. 70% of the Brazilian population uses Pix. The importance of a
sanction-resistant monetary systems is higher than ever, especially in situations like the one Ukraine and
Russia are facing currently.
The present payment and settlement system involves multiple intermediaries to perform basic financial
transactions thus leading to a highly interdependent reconciliation system that is complex, inefficient, and
outdated. Only few current digital payment methods offer real-time settlement, such transactions are
expensive for merchants. A CBDC should aim to reduce the complexity of the current payment system by
minimizing the number of intermediaries as this will lead to increased efficiency through instant payment
and settlement functionality being offered at a relatively reduced cost, thus creating value for the entire
payment chain (Kantar Public, 2022).
The programmability of payments can significantly increase efficiency by transforming existing business
models and creating new ones (such as pay per use), thus contributing positively to the economy. Some
examples include a smart vehicle handling the payment automatically at a gas station (Gross et al., 2020),
smart consumer electronics ordering supplies that are low in stock, and machines selling their sensor data
to interested services (Mercan et al., 2021).
A CBDC should provide the highest degree of privacy. In this context, a CBDC should supply
technically guaranteed privacy by design and by default, without the need to trust the central
bank to preserve privacy. The CBDC can be utilized, ideally, by anonymous payments for smalland medium-sized transactions.
Privacy, which is defined as the right to keep actions to yourself is a fundamental human right (United
Nations, n.d.). All services, especially in the digital context, must respect citizens’ right to privacy and
implement privacy-preserving mechanisms in the interest of social welfare. In the case of a CBDC, privacypreserving mechanisms must be implemented in such a way that the benefits of these mechanisms
significantly outweigh the costs or potential negative consequences. Therefore, if introduced, a CBDC must
offer adequate privacy standards while ensuring compliance with the regulations. Privacy has also emerged
as one of the most significant features as indicated in European Central Bank’s digital euro public
consultation launched in October 2020 (European Central Bank, 2020), thus showcasing strong evidence
for increased public demand for privacy-preserving digital payment infrastructure.
Existing centralized ledger-based digital payment systems do not allow for anonymous (the right to keep
your identity to yourself but not your actions) payments. One of the most critical arguments for nonanonymity in the digital payments space has been related to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) / Countering
the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) compliance and controlling of illicit activities. Therefore, in the status
quo, the concept of ‘privacy in financial transactions’ by default means that a third party (the custodian for
example) is in complete possession of the financial data of the users. Regulatory compliance and technical
infeasibility have hence become popular ‘justifications’ for major digital payment providers to deter changes
to the current outworn systems and to not introduce anonymity in the retail payments space. However, with
the rapid advancements in technology and the increasing awareness of privacy in general, significant
privacy-preserving techniques have developed especially in the context of retail CBDC transactions (Gross
et al., 2021; Grothoff & Moser, 2021; Samid, 2022). The suggested solutions not just guarantee high privacy
standards but also ensure technical feasibility and regulatory compliance in small- and medium-sized CBDC
transactions. The concept of introducing thresholds vis-a-vis retail transactions is one of the most
uncomplicated approaches toward AML/CFT compliance (European Central Bank, 2022b). The option to
undertake anonymous payments up to a certain limit will be an effective measure to ensure high privacy
guarantees for citizens while controlling illicit activities.
A CBDC should not be designed in a way to do harm to society, e.g., via very negative interest
rates, or via so-called programmable money that
` restricts the use of money for specific types of
expenditures (e.g., special food and beverages, computer games, etc.) or that expires after a
certain amount of time. A CBDC should be based on principles of self-determination and
CBDC infrastructure should be developed in line with the ‘do no harm’ principle. The micro and macrolevel implications of introducing a nationwide retail CBDC should be carefully evaluated from the
perspectives of all the stakeholders involved such as the central bank, commercial banks, private firms, and
the citizens. Special focus should be given to the user perspective since a payment system like CBDC is an
important part of the economic infrastructure and directly affects the users. Therefore, any design features
which have the potential to undermine public welfare or detrimentally affect user experience should be
avoided from the initial phases of the CBDC design process.
Many advanced economies (especially the euro area) are facing an environment of stagnation coupled with
slow economic growth, reduced investments, and decreased consumer spending. Major policy interventions
are needed to stimulate the economy in times of stagnation and ensure financial stability. Low/negative
interest rates could play a major role in this situation again in the future by making credit more attractive
which in turn may lead to higher investments in the economy. In theory, negative interest rates on CBDCs
can be used as a monetary policy tool to stimulate investment (Jia, 2020). But due to the controversy and
adverse effect of negative interest rates for retail payments, with CBDC, the authorities should focus on
building a convenient, efficient, and resilient payment infrastructure rather than addressing wider
One of the ‘shortcomings’ of cash is that it is not digital and hence not apt for payment and settlement in a
digital setting. As a digital form of cash, CBDC resolves this issue and broadens the scope for innovation in
the payments space with the additional feature of ‘programmability’. However, risks emerge when features
like programmability are used to undermine the financial self-determination and freedom of the citizens and
exert disproportionate control over their saving and spending behavior. The concept of expiring money can
greatly influence citizens’ consumption behavior, which can lead to significant market imperfections such
as unprecedented supply and demand shocks, thus resulting in financial and economic instability. Moreover,
expiration undermines some of the key characteristics of money such as liquidity and unconditional
exchangeability/fungibility, thus refuting the essence of money and its usage as a medium of exchange
(Landau, 2021). Although the feature of programmability in CBDC opens new doors, a sophisticated cost-
benefit analysis should be conducted in the design phase to ensure that such features are used for public
welfare and not exploited for short-term economic or political objectives.
In addition, the programmability should have straightforward access to ensure all participating entities can
utilize the feature in a feasible manner and not in a way that would require large investment into resources
such as developers of specialized smart contract languages.
The development of a CBDC should follow a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders
(central banks, financial institutions, associations, end-users, companies, researchers, etc.) and
have a well-defined governance system. The design and development processes should be
transparent, public, and open. Ideally, a CBDC should be open-source and use open-source
technology to increase transparency.
The development of a retail CBDC should follow a collaborative process of checks and balances. Citizens
should be adequately informed about the design process and kept up to date with regular information directly
from the authorities (central bank) (Abramova et al., 2022). Such a strategy is particularly beneficial as it
creates awareness about the central bank’s endeavors and allows experts, specialists, and tech-savvy citizens
to monitor the activities of the authorities. This will ensure transparency of the CBDC design process and
boost trust and confidence in the public. Moreover, a system of checks and balances will significantly reduce
the likelihood of developing an unfavorable CBDC that neither meets public expectations nor achieves the
desired policy objectives.
The central bank plays a major role in the economy by implementing effective monetary policy, maintaining
price stability, and acting as a regulator, thus ensuring stability in the financial system (Padoa-Schioppa,
2003). Given its dedicated role, the central bank possesses adequate expertise to fulfill its conventional
mandate. However, in the case of CBDC infrastructure, the central bank may likely lack the necessary
expertise which is needed for holistically evaluating the technical and policy implications of the CBDC
Technology considerations play a central role in the CBDC design process, hence it is of great significance
that experts in the technology field are consulted for the purpose. This gives rise to the opportunity of publicprivate partnerships in which both sides benefit from each other; the central bank benefits from the technical
expertise of the technology firms and technology firms can leverage their knowledge and collaborate with
the central bank to implement efficient and technologically resilient CBDC infrastructure.
However, it is important to note that such a situation may give rise to conflicting interests where the
objective of the central bank is to maximize social welfare whereas the objective of private firms is to
maximize profits. Therefore, the central bank should not rely on just one stakeholder but rather take a
diversified approach by engaging other stakeholders in the CBDC value chain. For the purpose of attaining
industry knowledge, the central bank should collaborate with multiple financial institutions which are
already active in the payments space and have a direct relationship with the users. In order to get a firm
theoretical understanding and inspiration from the academic literature, the central bank should consult
renowned researchers and academics from the policy, economic, and technical fields. To keep in line with
the current trends of digitalization and understand the scale and scope of the existing technology, the central
bank should collaborate with firms that are at the apex of technological innovation such as the Big Techs
and other technological consultants. Given the novelty of the CBDC concept, not all expertise can be found
in-house, i.e., there are a considerable number of subject matter experts, technology enthusiasts, and techsavvy individuals who are part of think tanks that are active in the CBDC field. Collaborating with think
tanks would allow the central bank to take advantage of the open innovation approach and get access to a
wide variety of experts who are engaged in CBDC either out of personal interest or professional occupation.
The existing qualitative approach to the potential outcomes of rolling out a CBDC has to be complemented
with quantitative approaches that are able to model its adoption and the main impacts on the economy.
The central bank should also engage with major civil rights organizations to analyze the social implications
of implementing CBDC and ensure its alignment in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens. The
most crucial part of the design process is to involve the citizens who are the end-users of the CBDC
technology. Although not all citizens are experts in the field of CBDC, however as the users of CBDC,
citizens can provide significant insights about their needs and expectations, thus enabling the central bank
to align its design approach and focus on specific design features which create value for the citizens. Many
central banks in advanced economies are already engaging with the public in the form of regular public
consultation, user surveys, and anonymous polls. Such an approach is particularly advantageous as it
provides the much-needed user perspective to the central bank and also plays a major role in enabling
constructive communication and engaging the public in the design process of such a critical payment
The usage of open-source technology in retail CBDC seems beneficial not just to the central bank but also
to the users as it promotes accountability of the central bank and increases transparency (Chaum et al.,
2021). Open-source technology allows for the potential of extensive collaboration amongst various
stakeholders involved in the CBDC design process. With this approach, the source code can be accessed by
everyone, and changes can be made accordingly. There exist multiple software-based solutions such as
FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open-Source Software) which enable such functionality and allow participants to
actively take part in the coding process (Chaum et al., 2021). Another benefit of open-source technology
arises from the concept of the wisdom of crowds. Given the active participation of various stakeholders in
the coding and development process, it becomes possible to evaluate minute details, spot flaws, and rectify
mistakes. Therefore, the use of open-source technology can result in the creation of a superior CBDC
infrastructure which has been thoroughly analyzed with respect to its features and the value it can create for
the citizens. We welcome the initiatives by the Central Bank of Norway to publish the code of their CBDC
experimentations open-source on GitHub (Derbyshire, 2022).
` and usage interoperability, both locally and
The CBDC should exhibit technical, regulatory
Payment efficiency, local and global, is one of the most commonly cited motivations for the development
of a CBDC (Bindseil, 2020). Indeed, CBDCs provide the opportunity to reduce frictions associated with
cross-border transactions and reduce global payment fees to below 3%, in line with the United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2009). Achieving this payment efficiency requires a
collaborative and harmonized approach to CBDC development with particular emphasis on interoperability.
Simply put, interoperability is the ability of disparate systems to communicate seamlessly with each other.
Related to CBDCs, this definition encompasses technical, regulatory, and usage interoperability at both a
domestic and cross-border level (Boar et al., 2021). That is, CBDCs should be communicable with payment
systems, domestically and internationally, in the areas of technology, regulation, and usage.
Technical interoperability relates to the ease of connectivity across different payment networks and closed
systems at a technology architectural level. This can be achieved through payment integrators, open banking
(API, third party providers), distributed ledger technology and other arrangements. Regulatory
interoperability denotes the ability to connect with systems that have varying regulatory standards and
legislation toward lawful transacting. This can be achieved by collaborative policy and standard setting
within and across jurisdictions. Usage interoperability relates to the ability of all population groups to
participate in CBDC payments without discrimination, promoting inclusion. This pertains to the level of
identity authentication and technological (access to the internet, devices, electricity, etc.) prerequisites
needed to use CBDCs.
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The Digital Euro Association
The Digital Euro Association (DEA) is a think tank specializing in central bank digital currencies (CBDCs),
stablecoins, crypto assets, and other forms of digital money based in Frankfurt, Germany. In particular, it
focuses on the digital euro. The DEA’s mission is to contribute to the public and political discourse through
research, education, and by providing a platform and community for policy-makers, technologists, and
economists to discuss digital money-related topics. The DEA is committed to independence and the
furtherance of the public good through knowledge exchange, encouraging new ideas, and forward-thinking
in the field of digital money. Partnerships and collaborations are in no way an endorsement of partner
ideologies nor political regimes.
The CBDC Think Tank
The CBDC Think Tank (CBDC TT) is a group of bankers, researchers, academics, members of international
financial institutions (IFIs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) interested in the future of digital
currencies and payments. The CBDC TT is agnostic to technology and vendors and seeks to facilitate
communication between institutions and the public, encouraging the sharing, dissemination of knowledge
through town halls, workshops and masterclasses. Although it engages in advisory work, its focus is on
delivering impact that best aligns with the needs of its clients and the forward progress of human civilization.