Exploring Diaspora Strategies

Ambassador’s Message – Exploring Diaspora Strategies

 1 February 2010

You may be interested in a useful and stimulating report called Exploring Diaspora Strategies: Lessons for Ireland.  It emerged from the Exploring Diaspora Strategies workshop, held in NUI Maynooth on 26-28 January 2009. 

The workshop, which was part funded by the Emigrant Support Programme of the Department of Foreign Affairs, was coordinated by Professors Mark Boyle and Robert Kitchin, both of NUI Maynooth. It brought together policy makers from Australia, Chile, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Lithuania, New Zealand, Scotland, and the World Bank, to explore how different countries have approached the formulation and implementation of Diaspora Strategies. Irish officials involved with and knowledgeable about emigration issues were represented. 

As defined by Boyle and Kitchin, ‘a diaspora strategy is an explicit and systematic policy initiative or series of policy initiatives aimed at developing and managing relationships with a diaspora… [It] is perhaps best thought of… as an overarching framework for providing a level of coherence to the range of diaspora policies devised and implemented by a variety of agencies.’ 

 Many countries pursue a range of initiatives and policies designed to engage, support and ‘harness’ their Diaspora; however, very few can claim that these initiatives form a distinct and coherent Diaspora Strategy. That accepted, some common principles supporting strategy formation have begun to emerge, and the workshop aimed to establish what these were, and how these could be applied by policy makers.

Overall, the paper reflects positively on the ‘wide range of programmes and schemes through which [Ireland] engages its diaspora’, noting that ‘together these… provide a broad range of services to, and partnerships with, the Irish diaspora across the globe and constitute a constellation that few other countries can match in terms of scope and reach.’

The authors see a lack of cohesion amongst these programmes, which, they suggest, do not currently form a coherent, overarching diaspora strategy.  Amongst other recommendations, the paper suggests that while ‘[i]t does not make sense to force all existing programmes into a centralised single organisation responsible for overseeing and managing them’, the State should look to improve coordination of the ‘various strands of [Diaspora] strategy across departments and agencies to ensure a continuity of effort, avoid duplication, and undertake the effective monitoring of progress’. This, it suggests, could be achieved by officially appointing a single agency or unit – the authors suggest the Irish Abroad Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs as a candidate – to coordinate (although not centrally manage) the Diaspora Strategy. 

 Other key recommendations in the paper include:

  • developing a state-sponsored website portal that provides links to all diaspora programmes, but not content
  • developing an awards scheme to acknowledge and reward the Irish abroad who have made a significant contribution to Ireland and the diaspora
  • devising a strategy to develop philanthropic relationships with members of the Irish diaspora
  • recognizing the value of an ‘affinity diaspora’

 The Global Irish Economic Forum held in Farmleigh last September was a significant contribution to the debate on the Irish Diaspora (the report is available on http://www.dfa.ie).  One of the Forum’s key objectives is to establish how Ireland’s relationship with our overseas communities can be brought to a new, more dynamic level. It is envisaged that the Forum will identify a range of concrete Diaspora initiatives – potentially including some of those outlined in the attached paper – and will be a key step in the formation of a Diaspora Strategy. 

 At any rate, the report of the recent Maynooth workshop is a useful survey which you may find interesting.

 

Eamonn McKee

Ambassador

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