‘Moving Forward by Giving Back’
More than 450 global Diaspora leaders joined U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton for the second-annual Global Diaspora Forum, a gathering designed to encourage partnerships between the Diaspora, the private sector, civil society and public institutions.
The opening event took place at the State department where Clinton was greeted with standing ovation by African, European, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern leaders. During her speech, Clinton emphasized the importance of partnering with Diaspora communities on development and diplomacy initiatives and encouraged participants to connect with one another, build global networks, and discussed opportunities for giving back to their countries of origin.
“By tapping into the experiences, the energy, the expertise of Diaspora communities, we can reverse the so-called ‘brain drain’ that slows progress in so many countries around the world, and instead offer the benefits of ‘brain gain,’” Clinton said.
The Forum kicked off with an overview of accomplishments of the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), a partnership platform launched by the Secretary of State in 2011. Today, IdEA has over 1,500 Diaspora community partners and has launched three regional entrepreneurship competitions including the second African Diaspora Marketplace, the Caribbean Idea Marketplace, and the Latin American Idea (La Idea) competition. Building on these successes, the Secretary announced new commitments around this partnership.
These included the official opening of the La Idea business competition to support small and medium sized entrepreneurs from Mexico and Central America. She also announced new partnerships for promoting diaspora engagement, including a mentoring platform, a grassroots philanthropy program, a diaspora fellowship program, and a diaspora volunteer corps.
The new Diasporas@ program was another major feature of the 2012 Forum. Through this initiative, diaspora community leaders were invited to host local parties to watch livestreamed sessions from the main Forum at the State Department, and host discussion groups around topics of interest. Diaspora groups in Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Massachusetts coordinated viewing parties and participated in online discussions about diaspora engagement, along with more than 655 online participants representing groups from the United States, African countries (Nigeria, Sudan, etc.), India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Canada, Egypt, China Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, among others.
Over the course of the two-day conference, participants shared ideas about how government and diaspora communities could work together more effectively. Key themes from the conference focused on the best ways to tap this diaspora potential and implement specific diaspora engagement strategies. Many of these discussions addressed the need to create diaspora-led initiatives that not only successfully target a critical challenge, but that are scalable, efficient, and effective enough to create a sustainable solution to the problem.
Over the course of the Forum, participants discussed a variety of successful and unsuccessful initiatives, as well as challenges they faced and the best practices they discovered for building diaspora-led partnerships. The most important themes that emerged from these discussions are:
- Partnerships with diaspora is critical to more effective foreign policy: As access to technology expands and the world shrinks, diplomacy and development is increasingly becoming more inclusive. The diaspora community organizations and members play an important role in promoting stronger, deeper, more effective bilateral collaboration with their countries of heritage.
- Diaspora communities are a “diplomatic bridge” during times of transition:Diaspora communities can serve as a “diplomatic bridge,” helping to reaffirm and strengthen diplomatic ties amid political upheaval and change. Diaspora from Tunisia, Egypt and Syria were cited as examples for their role during recent upheavals in the respective countries.
- Leveraging the diversity of the United States as an asset: More than 60 million Americans are first-or second-generation diaspora. They bring diversity to the American tableau and are an important engine for growth and innovation across every industry and sector.
- Remittances are important but only part of the picture: Remittances from the United States alone to developing countries in 2010 were $95.8 billion—three times what the U.S. government spent on official development assistance. Remittances represent a significant share of many countries’ gross domestic product. However, remittances alone will not suffice in promoting sustainable development in emerging economies. The great potential to scale up remittances’ impact from the household to the country level can be achieved through public-private partnerships, in which diaspora communities can strategically invest in their countries of heritage, supporting innovative projects that are scalable and sustainable and greatly improve quality of life.
- Diaspora engagement is key for exploring new markets: Diaspora communities are important catalysts when it comes to exploring new markets due to their expertise of the local economy and culture, as well as their tolerance for risk-taking.
- Diasporas drive innovation in Silicon Valley and beyond: More than half of the CEOs of Silicon Valley were born outside of the United States, demonstrating the enormous amount of talent and entrepreneurial energy that immigrants bring to the technology and engineering sectors.
- Diaspora mobilization can save lives: The work of an organized, mobilized diaspora to raise awareness and money in a time of crisis and coordinate relief efforts can save tens of thousands of lives in their country of heritage. Somali diaspora in the U.S. were cited as an example for their role the 2011 famine crisis in Somalia.
Key announcements were made towards the conclusion of the Diaspora Forum, including:
- La IdeA: The Latin American IdEA Partnership (La Idea) is a business competition platform that fosters collaboration between entrepreneurs in the United States and Latin America with the goal of expanding innovative businesses that will generate employment and economic growth throughout the Americas.
- MentorCloud: IdEA is partnering with MentorCloud, an online, peer-to-peer e-mentorship and knowledge-sharing platform. This partnership provides diaspora organizations a powerful means for their members and partners across regions and countries to exchange ideas and expertise. It also allows them to collaborate with each other to promote human resource development and entrepreneurship, in their US communities and in their countries of origin or heritage.
- GlobalGiving: IdEA is partnering with GlobalGiving to link diaspora communities to an innovative online platform for giving back to their countries of origin or heritage. Global giving works with over 1,100 organizations in 120 countries.
- Diaspora Corps: USAID, Accenture LLP, and Cuso International announced the launch of the Diasporas for Development (DfD) initiative as a new Global Development Alliance to support and encourage diaspora volunteerism under the auspices of the IdEA Fellows Program.