The development of successful diaspora policies

The chapters in this volume emphasize that there is much to be gained from emigration, especially by mobilising the skills and human capital of return emigrants, and by increasing the economic impact of remittances. For the development of successful diaspora policies, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania can build on a body of existing academic research and international experience. The International Organization for Migration (IOM, 2006), for instance, has found that policy success in engaging with diasporas depends on the ability to deal with their complex and heterogeneous nature. The IOM also developed a diaspora policy roadmap summarising the key stages of diaspora policy making.

The issue of migration and development, and of successful diaspora policies has regained substantial interest in academia, governments and international agencies over the past few years (De Haas, 2006). Initial pessimism concerning the effects of emigration (e.g. “brain drain”) gave way to a widespread optimistic belief regarding the development and poverty-reducing potential of remittances (De Haas, 2006; Adams and Page, 2005; World Bank, 2006). A tremendous increase in remittance flows to emigration countries has strengthened this belief among policy makers (Carling, 2008a).

Despite this optimism, the real economic impact of large-scale emigration on home countries is complex and rather heterogeneous, varying across different emigration patterns and diaspora policies implemented. The fundamental question, therefore, should be, how do different migration policy environments affect the association between emigration and development outcomes (De Haas, 2006, p. 13). In addition, the IOM (2006) points to an urgent need to clearly define the role of governmental diaspora policies in mobilising diasporas to further economic development in home countries.

Because of the substantial increase in remittance flows, virtually all diaspora policy makers aim to enhance the development impact of this financial resource. To do so, they can, for example, aim to increase the volume of current remittance flows, or choose to stimulate the direct investment of remittances (which, as previously noted, is very difficult) (Carling, 2008a). Underlying these different policy strategies, however, there are three central issues that can either make or break diaspora policies on remittances, and thus need to be thought through in advance.

Firstly, policies that explicitly target and favour emigrants should be avoided, as they are liable to create tensions between migrants and non-migrants and thus undermine the development benefits of migration. Secondly, policy makers need to consider the question of remittance ownership. The relationship between senders remitting money and receivers in home countries is often tense and complex, as the financial transaction creates an obligation for receivers, and senders do not have accurate information on how the money is spent. Policies thus have to respect the private nature of remittances. Lastly, there’s the issue of the long-term sustainability of remittance flows. As migration gradually becomes permanent, remittance flows tend to decrease due to looser attachments to the country of origin. Therefore, precise information on migration patterns and on the determinants of migrant remittances is crucial for the development of successful remittance policies (Carling, 2008a and 2008b).

Crucial to the success of diaspora policies is the ability to foster co-operation between local (including government) initiatives and different diaspora groups, and to build on already existing initiatives (IOM, 2006; De Haas, 2006; Newland and Patrick, 2004). It is important to acknowledge that fruitful diaspora and development projects often come from within diasporas and that state-led initiatives should co-operate with such existing projects. Exemplars of successful initiatives originating in the diaspora are spontaneous movements and associations. For instance, the French-Moroccan Association Migrations et Developpement is a grassroots organisation that successfully committed itself to release the development potential of Moroccan emigration in the country of origin. It has implemented numerous effective development projects in over 400 Moroccan villages and is now consulted by the Moroccan Government on future development projects (De Haas, 2006). The African Foundation for Development (AFFORD, founded in the United Kingdom) provides another example of an influential non-governmental organisation that successfully seeks to engage the African diaspora in initiatives to promote economic development in Africa through various activities, such as negotiating with international financial companies to provide a cheap remittance transfer services to migrants (ibid.).

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