Governments and organisations looking to build relationships with their diasporas have to devise strategies which reward both parties for their engagement, a conference in Dublin heard today.
Speaking at the closing session of the Global Diaspora Forum in Killiney, chairman of the Gathering Tim O’Connor said the tourism initiative had been an example of the “democratisation of diaspora policy”, which showed how governments, business partners and communities at home and abroad could work together for their mutual benefit.
“It has created a platform whereby local areas, right down to families, parishes and county councils can get actively involved,” he said.
"There is a lot of good will towards Ireland or towards home countries generally, but for a lot of people in the diaspora it is not clear to them what they can do. One of the challenges for the homeplace is to devise compelling and manageable propositions that are doable for people."
Mr O’Connor said ConnectIreland, an initiative which financially rewards individuals or organisations overseas who create jobs in Ireland, was another practical initiative which benefitted both the home country and members of the diaspora.
Kathleen Newland of the US Migration Policy Institute said the "world had a lot to learn" from Ireland's diaspora-led approach, which has centred around the concept that "it is fun to be Irish".
“I work with a lot of governments around the world on diaspora engagement and there is often an ‘eat your vegetables’ approach to diaspora engagement, something that you need to do and that diaspora communities are obliged to give back to their home countries,” she said. “But not until you make it fun and rewarding will that engagement be sustainable.”
The European strand of the two-day forum was attended by approximately 200 delegates from around the world.
While yesterday’s sessions concentrated on how countries could benefit economically from their diaspora communities, the focus today was on how new communication methods and cultural and tourism initiatives can strengthen the ties between the two.
In his concluding remarks, Professor Mark Boyle of the Department of Geography in NUI Maynooth said the European Union's Horizon 2020 scheme, which will provide €80 billion in funding for research and innovation between 2014 and 2020, was a good opportunity for diaspora communities and organisations, but a coherent EU policy on diasporas was needed.
“Unless you get the policy right, the funding and support mechanisms won’t happen,” he said.