Fifteen years ago, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) made no mention of migration or its links to development. There was little recognition of the enormous contributions that Diaspora make to development.
Now, 2015 is a critical year for migration, as the international community will agree on a new global development framework to succeed the MDGs. There is an opportunity to ensure that migration is integrated into the new development framework.
Laura Thompson, Ambassador and Deputy Director General of International Organization for Migration (IOM), in her keynote address at the launch of the all Party Parliamentary Group on Diaspora, Development and Migration (APPGDDM), presented compelling arguments for a stronger parliamentarian engagement in order to achieve better migration governance and to integrate migration agenda into development policies at all levels.
“There is no point in having great policies on one aspect of migration if policies in other areas contradict or undermine them,” Ambassador Thompson said.
Many African Diaspora organisations attended the launch event hosted in the House of Commons on February 3rd in London by Baroness Young of Hornsey. The APPGDDM will connect parliamentarians with diaspora organisations from all regions of the world, academics and civil society groups to inform them about the policy on how diaspora contributions can be harnessed for a greater impact.
Gibril Faal, Chairman of African Foundation for Development (AFFORD), a UK-based charity that has put diaspora and development issues on the policy agenda, will be providing practical secretarial support to the APPGDDM which will meet four times a year.
Which opportunities does diaspora engagement present for societies and governments?
There are 230 million people who are international migrants with an extra 740 – 750 million internal migrants within their own country, which means that one in every seven people in the world today is a migrant. These billion people contribute to the economic and social development of their home and host societies.
She stated that migrants’ diaspora sent back to developing countries 400 billion USD in 2013, which dwarfs foreign aid, and exceeds foreign direct investments. These financial contributions constitute a lifeline for many, allowing families back home to spend more on health and education, as well as access formal financial services and information and communication technologies.
Diaspora members are investors, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists: they invest in businesses in their countries of origin and build trade networks between countries of origin and destination, with great benefit to both.
Indeed, Mark Okunnu, an attendee of the launch event from the Nigerian Diaspora, lived in Kenya before he returned home to Nigeria.
“When I had the opportunity to come here I asked myself whether I should,” he said. “My family was split. There was a section that thought I was missing out in Nigeria by staying outside the country.”
But considering that London is only six hours from Nigeria, he decided to migrate to the UK with a work permit in 1986. He then created his consultancy, Management Strategies for Africa in 2000 and travels between the UK and Nigeria for his work.
Diaspora community also facilitates the flow of knowledge and skills, establishing transnational scientific networks and contributes to the diffusion of technology across countries.
David Foxman from Developed Africa also attended the event. He is a British professional who works closely with the Diaspora of different African countries in commercialising development opportunities in those countries.
He said: “It’s important that efforts are made to make the immigration in Europe or in the UK of people from Africa a good thing, rather than a bad thing.”
Today more than 110 countries in the world have special government units, which seek to facilitate diaspora contributions to development, Ms Thompson said. IOM, together with the Migration Policy Institute, recently published a handbook “Developing a Road Map for Engaging Diasporas in Development” which provides a detailed guidance to national governments, local authorities and other groups on how to reach out to diaspora communities.
The participation of the diaspora both in the country of origin and the country of destination are key to make a significant impact and be counted at a global level.
African Diaspora Professional Women in Europe (ADIPWE), an online forum aim to celebrate each year the most inspirational African women in Europe who are making some difference on the continent of origin. The nominations for the 2015 list are opened until the 28 February 2015.
To cast your vote, visit https://adipwe.wordpress.com/ and send the link to your friends and family to help us tell the story of African Diaspora women in Europe.