The IF Campaign’s Nutrition for Growth G8 Event has come and gone and guess what, the pledges and commitment were made and government, business and NGO’s have jointly agreed that £2.1 Billion is more or less enough to save children from malnutrition. The high level dialogue conference at 100 Embankment House was more or less designed to exert pressure on the G8 member states and businesses to ensure that they respond to ‘global needs’ which are to reduce the number of stunted children, to eradicate under-nutrition and scale up efforts to combat malnutrition. It was agreed during the conference that these issues require ‘joint efforts’ between private and public sectors as well as support from academia and other stakeholders, as Unilever boss Paul stated, ‘No single country. No single company. No single NGO….can address the enormous challenges of malnutrition or food security alone’. To no surprise, the joint efforts stated during the conference were assumed to be between these ‘key stakeholders’ and not taken into consideration other factors that could enhance the capacity to tackle the problem. These ‘other’ factors I am projecting are the numbers of Diasporas that could be found in many European and other developed nations.
First of all I would like to applaud Henry Bonsu for not only being a great host to the conference but merely for his continued reference during the conference to how he, and other ‘Ghanaians’ have tried to assist their close ones in Africa. With humour and sheer persistence, he kept referring to how Diasporas can and should be involved in assisting those in need in their native countries.
‘How significant is the role of Diaspora communities in the IF Campaign?’ was the question asked by my fellow Diaspora blogger, Chibwe Henry, CEO of Diaspora for African Development (DfAD) and Co-Chair of IF Campaign Diaspora Working Group. This question was addressed to the Queen of African music, Angelique Kidjo. Her answer will be discussed later in the article but from this question, a number of questions crept up and exposed the issues surrounding the involvement of Diaspora organisation and their contribution to the IF Campaign. Were Diaspora communities consulted for the IF Campaign? What was the extent of their involvement and participation to the campaign? Are INGO’s and other stakeholders willing to involve the Diaspora? And more so, how are they planning to involve them? As well as asking questions on Diaspora involvement, similar questions can be presented to the Diaspora communities, e.g. what can Diaspora communities bring to the campaign? What are their capacities to get involved in the campaign? How can they get involved? Etc.
With foreign residents from developing countries amassing to an amazing 20 709 900, which is equivalent to 4.1% of the total EU population (the United Kingdom has 4 802 300; 7.6 % of total UK population). Diaspora involvement in the campaign seems to have been minimal as not much had been done to involve these communities from the onset, whether through consultation or round table discussion during the initial planning and design of the campaign. The failure to proactively involve these communities not only undermines the effort to tackle the issue but also questions the practicalities and ideals of the movement. How many Filipino’s, Chileans and Zimbabweans Diasporas work in the NHS? In and across Europe? How many of these are highly qualified doctors, nurses, paediatricians, physiotherapist, nutritionists and academics? I can’t give you the exact numbers but from my experience of being a Diasporan in the UK, I can duly say that it is many.
Going back to Angelique’s response to my colleague’s question, she responded admirably, noting three key points.
1.) Yes, Diaspora are important for the campaign to succeed
2.) Diasporas need to be engaged with the issues and themselves first before dealing with other stakeholders.
3.) Diasporas contribution will add emotional attachment to what is otherwise a statistical issue.
Angelique’s answer couldn’t be more right. Diasporas already contribute a lot directly and indirectly through remittances, volunteerism and entrepreneurship. According to recent studies, remittances contribute more to development than the aid sector. On Angelique’s first point, Diasporas are important because they have skills, expertise and experiences of working and living in both the adopted and developing country they are from. They are important because they can bring to the table the local knowledge either through communication (language); understanding of local social structures and systems; understanding of best practice through local and international context, and grassroots understanding of local communities as well as its dynamic and social mobility.
With the second point, Angelique is appealing to the Diaspora communities as crucial duty-bearers to the development of their native countries due to family affiliation rather than being outsiders trying to help. It is important for Diasporas to be aware of these issues and therefore willing to take part actively and not be bystanders. Diaspora NGOs have a crucial role to build the capacity and understanding of their communities and how they can take part in combating the issue. The final point emphasises the importance of how Diasporas will have an added value to the campaign by bringing the emotional attachments to the message. They will put faces to the messages and statistical number provided by ‘big INGOs’ as they have emotional attachment to the issues and due to their natural affiliation with local people.
There is a great need to involve Diaspora organisations in the campaign not just for the legitimacy of it but due to simple common sense, they have a good understanding of the issues as well as expertise to make a difference. This untapped resource is crucial for the IF campaign to succeed. Likewise, Diasporas need to be heard and show that they are willing to engage actively. Many Diaspora individuals are currently involved in small, self-financed projects which if natured and guided properly could be very beneficial to those in need. They may not have enough capacity to do the work properly but this is where the IF Campaign can step in and assist.
EUROSTAT, Foreign and foreign-born population by group of citizenship and country of birth, 1
January 2012, 15 March 2013