by Trisha Mitchell-Darius
We sat in the air-conditioned comfort of Radisson Grenada Beach Resort, against the backdrop of the world renowned Grand Anse Beach in St. George’s, Grenada and conversed. 30 participants, 14 countries; comprising of migration experts, academic and government officials, civil society and other key stakeholders that work in diaspora engagement, foreign affairs, consular affairs and national development planning. It was so refreshing to hear and participate in the discourse.
A striking point to note - Over the course of two days of discussion on migration and diaspora engagement – brain drain was mentioned a total of 2 times. This is a crucial step forward for migration governance in the region, as it means that Caribbean governments are slowly changing their view on migration, viewing it not as an absolute loss, but rather as an opportunity to access benefits in the form of remittances, social capital, investment opportunities, knowledge and technology transfers. This can only mean good things for development in the region. Finally, we can get past the sometimes negative sentiment that is attached to those of us who for whatever reason have chosen to leave – but who do not forget, but rather continue to identify strongly with our roots and pass those ties down to our offspring.
The move to view members of the diaspora, not as a monolithic group of persons who have opted to leave for whatever reason, but rather as development partners will pave the way for richer and more fruitful engagement with the diaspora. Mortley (2019), describes Caribbean migrants as “hardworking, skilled, professional, politically aware and resourceful persons who not only send back remittances to multiple households, but who contribute to cross border partnerships, heritage and diaspora tourism, trade and investment opportunities.”
Caribbean governments would do well to create strategies to enable the diaspora to remain connected, engaged and to participate in various aspects of national development.
The following measures are proposed for consideration;
- Create and strengthen institutional arrangements to facilitate the work of Diaspora Affairs Offices and units, inclusive of the appointment of ‘Diaspora Officers’ in the various overseas missions with responsibility for linking diaspora issues with the priority needs of the government;
- Develop and maintain an engagement framework with the Diaspora which could include measures such as: establishing databases to catalogue the skills and competencies of the diaspora;
- Developing special outreach measures to tap the skills of the Diaspora for inclusion where competitive bids for consultancies, and other government projects are available and to inform the diaspora of other industry vacancies
- Repurpose existing government websites to be used as information sharing platforms (eg. As means of informing the diaspora of major issues affecting home countries)
- Recognition by the Missions and Government of the potential of the diaspora to act as part of a lobbying thrust in major capitals on critical matters affecting their home country
- Create mechanisms through which the resources and skills of the diaspora community could be tapped and channeled towards national development via skills exchange programmes.
- Partner with local financial and development agencies to develop innovative diaspora investment vehicles (eg. diaspora funds, bonds, etc)
To close, according to Mortley (2019); “If governments’ new agenda for sustainable development is to truly be inclusive and foster more access, opportunities and global partnerships, then diasporic communities must be included in a meaningful way in development plans for social transformation and growth.”
About the author: Trisha Mitchell-Darius is a Grenadian national currently residing in Toronto, Canada. A proud Community Activist, her passion is to engage, inspire and mobilize individuals and organizations to utilize collective resources to transform first their community, then the world. With a background in Non-Profit Management, Community Development, Social Media, Fundraising, Strategy and Resource management, Trisha has a special interest in diaspora development projects which have the capacity to provide for sustained economic development in developing countries like Grenada. Trisha is currently Project Coordinator for the Grenada Diaspora Engagement Project funded by the International Development Fund and IOM.
Engagement of the Caribbean Diaspora: A Potential for Development.
Ref: Mortley, Natasha Kay. 2019. “More than dollars and cents; Leveraging the Multiple roles of Caribbean Migrant women within the diaspora for sustainable development.” Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, Issue 13:69-92