6 The value of diaspora links (Q6)
6.1 One of the current criteria for selection of priority countries is 'the nature of the relationship with Scotland, both historical and contemporary'. The consultation asked specifically whether existing diaspora links ( i.e. people from the priority countries living in Scotland) added value to the international development programme (Q6a), and how the programme could better capitalise on these links (Q6b).
Question 6a: Do you consider diaspora links to be adding value to our International Development Programme? [Yes / No]
Question 6b: If yes, are there ways we could use our diaspora links to greater value?
6.2 Altogether, 115 respondents (79 organisations and 36 individuals) replied to Question 6a. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said 'yes'; a quarter (25%) said that they did not know (Table 6.1).
Table 6.1: Q6a - Do you consider diaspora links to be adding value to our International Development Programme?
6.3 Respondents offered views on the following: what diaspora communities bring to the international development agenda; how use of the diaspora community might be enhanced; and caveats to support for, and reservations about, the added value that diaspora links bring to work in this area. There was a great deal of overlap in the views of those who answered 'yes', 'no' or 'don't know' and so the analysis below does not treat these groups separately.
What diaspora communities bring to the international development agenda
6.4 There was general agreement among respondents that diaspora communities could bring a valuable and unique perspective to international development work as a result of their knowledge of, and connections to, their home countries. It was argued that diaspora involvement could enhance understanding of problems, challenges and local contexts in partner countries, and increase effectiveness of projects and programmes. More specifically, respondents thought there were opportunities for:
- Sharing knowledge, expertise and ideas between diaspora communities, NGOs, governments, the wider public at home and in partner countries
- Building links - academic, cultural, trade, business - and facilitating collaborative working between Scotland and partner countries at societal, community, organisational and project levels
- Promoting understanding of Scotland's international development work both within Scotland and in partner countries.
6.5 Respondents saw a role for the Scottish Government in encouraging the contribution of diaspora communities at policy, programme and project level.
6.6 Some respondents drew attention to countries such as the Caribbean nations and Nepal which were not currently 'priority' countries but had diaspora communities in Scotland that might be used to support international development efforts.
How the use made of the diaspora community might be enhanced
6.7 The comments from respondents indicated - implicitly and explicitly - that many thought there was potential to use diaspora communities to better effect.
6.8 Some respondents identified community-level issues - such as the fragmented nature of diaspora groups, limited resources, or lack of formal groupings - which inhibited contributions to activities in this area. Others referred to a related need to support diaspora groups and build confidence and capacity for participation in the international development field.
6.9 Other respondents, however, focused on more specific steps which might help ensure diaspora links were used to greater effect. They suggested that:
- Appropriate individuals could be involved in expert groups and working parties, and in programme and project work, both in Scotland and in countries of origin. Diaspora members should also be made aware of job vacancies in international development, and encouraged to take part in short-term volunteering.
- Funding arrangements could be reviewed to make it easier for small groups to apply for grants; to offer 'matched funding' schemes to encourage diaspora fundraising; and to provide funding for diaspora-led projects. (See Chapter 8 for further discussion of funding mechanisms.) It was also thought that options such as investment bonds might encourage diaspora investment beyond families and immediate communities.
- There should be a range of ways for diaspora communities to contribute to policy thinking and activities: e.g. meetings and events (including web events); surveys; cultural and trade fora; sporting activities.
6.10 A range of respondents discussed the importance of preliminary work to lay the foundations in this area. They highlighted the need for clarity about the definition of 'diaspora'; and the need to improve knowledge about Scotland's diaspora communities and the skills and expertise which they might be able to offer. They noted the need for research on how best to engage communities and build on existing links. There was also a suggestion that Scots working in iNGOs would be able to advise on best practice in engaging diaspora communities.
Reservations about - and caveats to - working with diaspora communities
6.11 Although most respondents were supportive of making greater use of diaspora links, some noted reservations or caveats, and made the following points:
- Although engaging with diaspora communities could be useful, the preference should always be to make links with local people and organisations currently living and working in partner countries and use their knowledge, expertise and skills in setting priorities and delivering projects.
- There was no single diaspora community - the presence of different groups and sub-groups, and the diversity within groups needed to be recognised.
- Diaspora communities should not be assumed to be representative of communities in partner countries.
- It would be important to be aware of, and take account of, political allegiances among diaspora groups.
- Not all members of diaspora communities had relevant knowledge, expertise or links, or the inclination to be involved - all of which were more important than diaspora links per se.
6.12 Such views were particularly common among those who did not think that diaspora links added value to the Scottish Government's international development programme ( i.e. those not answering 'Yes' at Question 6a), but were not limited to this group.
6.13 Other points, generally made by just a few respondents, were as follows:
- Remittance payments from diaspora members to family members in their country of origin was seen as something to be celebrated. There were calls for the government to take a more active role in (i) exploring how such payments might complement formal international development activity, or (ii) negotiating favourable terms for money transfer on a collective basis.
- Respondents noted the scope for working with the Scottish diaspora living in partner countries and elsewhere in the world. In addition, the option of working with other (non-Scottish) diaspora communities in partner countries was also mentioned.
- One public sector organisation suggested that working with countries with diaspora in Scotland offered community cohesion benefits in Scotland.