From the floods in Bangladesh and Pakistan to the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, diasporas have been among the first responders, providing immediate relief to populations in need, and mobilising their skills, networks and resources at various crisis stages.

Diasporas represent key actors in transnational humanitarian assistance as they may act as bridges between local, national, regional, and international actors. In addition, diasporas’ attachment to their homeland motivates them to create alliances with key stakeholders and navigate complex humanitarian systems to protect their communities from abroad. 

Between October 2021 and February 2022, IOM, Shabaka and ADEPT jointly organised a series of three webinars to explore different perspectives on diaspora engagement in humanitarian assistance.

The objectives of the webinar series were:

  • Enhancing peer-to-peer collaboration among actors in the humanitarian landscape
  • Strengthening trust among diasporas and stakeholders responding to humanitarian emergencies
  • Contributing to the recognition of diaspora members as legitimate humanitarian actors and stakeholders

The webinar series produced a summary of key takeaways that includes some useful recommendations for improving cooperation with diasporas in providing humanitarian assistance to populations in need. The key takeaways of the webinar series can be accessed here.

IOM has recently developed a Framework for Diaspora’s Engagement in Humanitarian Assistance which aims to support more streamlined coordination among Diasporas and Institutional Humanitarian Actors, and promote more effective humanitarian assistance to affected people and communities worldwide. 

The summary of key takeaways complements this Framework by giving an insight into some of the challenges faced by the Diaspora and suggestions for how to move forward in this area. 

Webinar #1 | Key Alliances and the Transnational Humanitarian System 

This first webinar discussed existing and potential alliances, partnerships and coordination systems, to strengthen the diaspora’s work in humanitarian assistance. It also addressed ways to foster more systematic and sustainable responses by reinforcing and institutionalising alliances. 

The webinar also looked into current crises and how diaspora organizations and coalitions have been responding. Haiti, Afghanistan and Ethiopia have recently faced significant humanitarian emergencies. Representatives from Haitian, Afghan and Cameroonian diaspora organisations shared their experiences of responding to these different crises, and of working with institutional humanitarian partners.


Roberta Romano, Senior Migration Policy Specialist at the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Magalie Emily Backer, founder of the Haiti Renewal Alliance
Niloufar Rahim, chair of Keihan Foundation 
Shey Tatah Sevidzem, project coordinator NFU-Bongbati DK 

Read a summary of the discussion here.



Webinar #2 | Transnational Responses Developed by Diaspora Communities 

This second webinar drew attention to a different perspective of diaspora humanitarianism by highlighting the importance of diaspora’s broader interest and focus on responding in third countries, different from their countries of origin or settlement. The webinar discussed cases of diaspora transnational humanitarian involvement and response beyond origin countries, by bringing together elements of recent discussions and research by Shabaka, IOM, and ADEPT and practical examples from diaspora groups and networks.


Dr. Maher Azzouz, Board Member of the Syrian-American Medical Society Foundation
Cinzia De Santis, Founder of Healing Venezuela
Dima Haddad, National Programme Officer in Migrant Protection & Assistance at IOM Lebanon


Webinar #3 | Diaspora Leadership and Intergenerational Engagement

This third and last webinar of the series examined diasporas’ motivations and approaches to engage in humanitarian crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring generational differences in supporting humanitarian development, crisis prevention and recovery. Panellists representing different diaspora organisations and groups discussed the gaps and pressure points of the current humanitarian system, diaspora motivations to engage before, during, and after crises, as well as how second and subsequent generations engage with countries and regions of origin.

The discussion touched upon how to harness the potential of diaspora inter-generational engagement and learning as part of broader approaches to tackling crises that span the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. It also addressed the importance of promoting diaspora leadership to challenge ‘business as usual’ in the humanitarian and development sectors, and contribute to the delivery of the ‘localisation agenda’.


Walla Elsheikh, co-founder and CEO, Birthright Africa
Mabrur Ahmed, founder and Director, Restless Beings
Robert Banez, founder and CEO, the P.U.S.O Foundation
Megan Hunsberger, Program and Digital Media Manager, African Diaspora Network


Find out more about IOM's work on Diaspora Engagement