The Diaspora Volunteering Alliance (DVA) hosted a one-day conference on “The Future of Diaspora Volunteering in Development” on Monday June 1st, with the support of AFFORD UK and IOM, at the Amnesty Human Rights Centre in London.
Opened by Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, the first chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Diaspora, Development and Migration (APPGDDM), the event brought together diaspora groups, decision makers and volunteer-led organisations to discuss how opportunities from the current economic and social climate can be created to harness the potential of diaspora volunteering for development purposes.
The event was an opportunity to discuss the key challenges and opportunities present for diaspora groups and organisations to volunteer, and how such activities can contribute to the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Panellists included programme and campaigns specialists from the Danish Refugee Council, the Department for International Development, Bond, AFFORD and other diaspora-led organisations.
Tauhid Pasha, IOM’s Senior Specialist on Migration and Development, spoke of the importance of integrating diaspora partners into policy discussions to become full agents of development. “Diaspora organizations must be equipped to reach their full potential in order to engage effectively in development. We must understand who the diaspora are, how they operate and in what way they wish to engage.”
Tauhid cited the successful take-up of various IOM programmes, including the temporary return of qualified national’s project, which proves that there is a committed and highly-skilled diaspora that are willing and able to get involved in a more meaningful way. However, he reiterated that such projects, which seek to promote skills transfer and capacity building through the provision of technical expertise, must “go hand in glove with what is happening in the country, what the gaps and needs are, and how such activities fit within the national development strategies and framework.”
Mingo Heiduk-Tetsche of the Danish Refugee Council echoed this remark by pointing out that diaspora members should not replace the roles and skills of the population present in the country of origin and that “needs assessments are crucial to understanding how to operate in certain contexts.”
The afternoon portion of the event allowed for participants to break out into groups and practically discuss how to tackle some of the barriers facing diaspora organisations, such as diversifying funding for volunteer programmes and how to better engage with younger generations.
On the basis of the feedback received, DVA will develop an action plan for how its members and conference participants can influence and engage decision makers to recognise the impact of diaspora volunteering programmes, and offer more support.
The event closed with the launch of the DVA website and a presentation on the new strategy for Comic Relief’s Common Ground Initiative (CGI). CGI seeks to increase funding to and strengthen the capacity of diaspora organisations in order to create sustainable change for communities across Africa.