Not for Profits Must Partner With Diaspora Communities
27 September 2016 at 11:28 am
Not for Profits, governments and the private sector must partner and work with diaspora communities to develop effective programs, policies, secure trade and peace building initiatives, a conference on diasporas was told.
The importance of diaspora and Not for Profit engagement was explored at the Diasporas in Action: Working Together for Peace Development and Humanitarian Response conference, held by the Diaspora Learning Network on Monday.
The conference heard that diaspora communities offer an understanding of complex issues from their home countries and, therefore, can provide “valuable knowledge” to Not for Profits and governments.
Departmental lecturer at the University of Oxford, Dr Will Jones defined diasporas as: “A particular national community that has undergone dispersion, taken active steps to preserve their identity as a distinctive community and have an ongoing orientation towards the homeland.”
— Diaspora Action (@DiasporaAction) September 26, 2016
Chief of Mission in Yemen, International Organisation for Migration, and keynote speaker, Laurent De Boeck stressed the importance of partnering with diaspora communities.
“Diaspora communities have a connection and understanding of their home country and that makes their role vital in humanitarian relief and assistance… they are the first international respondents in the aftermath of disaster,” De Boeck said.
He said these communities provided aid and assistance through a variety of means, be it sending remittances, food, volunteering, donations or media exposure.
“Diaspora remittances are highlighted as a key humanitarian assistance,” De Boeck said.
In 2015, globally, remittances were worth $315 billion. In Zimbabwe alone, personal and family remittances almost amounted to more than the total amount of foreign aid sent.
Director of Up! Africa, Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie said diaspora groups played a key role in advocating and bringing awareness to issues and crises in their home countries.
“Diasporas are usually the first to raise the alarm when something affects their kinfolk. For example, those from Sierre Leone raised the Ebola alarm” Chikezie said.
Executive director and founder of Diaspora Action Australia, Denise Cauchi argued the importance of governments listening to the voices of the diaspora communities.
“Diasporas are embedded in their community… they can think and operate in two or more contexts,” Cauchi said.
Cauchi explained that diaspora groups were transnational actors – they set up schools, trained and educated, campaigned, advocated, offered assistance, helped with resettlement, as well as nation and peace building. The common feature of all of their actions was the people-to-people links.
“Diasporas have the opportunity to change the way Australians think and see the world,” she said.
The Minister of International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, echoed the importance of diaspora groups and their impact on government policy.
“I hope diaspora groups will bring their knowledge and investments to contribute to existing policy,” Fierravanti-Wells said.
Fierravanti-Wells commented on the importance of government working together with diaspora communities, saying that to successfully collaborate one must understand each other’s perspectives.
The conference was told there have been a number of examples where diaspora communities have worked with international NGOs, governments and other organisations for program development, advocacy and policy development.
Humanitarian advocacy coordinator at Oxfam Australia, Henry Parham, spoke about the importance of Oxfam partnering with diaspora communities.
“International NGOs have an advantage over diaspora groups as they have a reputation and brand recognition,” Parham said.
He said they could assist diasporas through training with grant applications, funding opportunities and campaign advice.
The previous CEO of Oxfam, Andrew Hewett, said international NGOs were able to “gain legitimacy for their advocacy” when partnering with diaspora communities.
Parham also said there were challenges that could arise when working with large Not for Profits.
He said large organisations may not be best setup to help as there is a lot of bureaucracy and systems in place. Additionally, at times they must remain impartial and neutral and this creates difficulty when working with politicised diaspora communities.
The Diasporas in Action conference is Australia’s first conference focusing on the innovation and growing impact of diaspora communities in the global humanitarian, peace and development effort.