Successful diaspora policies around the world

The safest and most effective approach to develop diaspora policies is thus to build on and support such successful existing initiatives (cf. also Newland and Patrick, 2004). Historically, countries like Israel, Mexico, Scotland and Ireland have large populations of emigrants living abroad, and a vast experience in the development of diaspora policies, from which much can be learned.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has initiated the so-called “Irish Abroad Unit” (Gardner, 2012). This is a unit within the Department that co-ordinates the provision of financial support to voluntary and Irish community organisations engaged in the delivery of services to (vulnerable) Irish communities abroad (www.dfa.ie). Its mission is to maintain and strengthen links between Ireland and existing Irish communities overseas. By supporting these existing Irish communities abroad, the Department fully acknowledges its role as facilitator rather than sole-implementer of diaspora engagement.

The Mexican diaspora is one of the largest diasporas worldwide, with over 12 million native Mexicans living abroad. It is also the most concentrated diaspora: approximately 95% of the Mexicans abroad live in the United States (Diaz de Leon, 2012). Since many Mexican emigrants have no intention to return to Mexico, the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (a decentralised unit of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs) aims not only to develop links between migrants and their country of origin, but also to promote the integration and empowerment of migrants in their country of destination and increase their quality of life (e.g. in terms of education and health care). Through a decentralised, local and communal approach, often in close co-operation with US public institutions, Mexican consulates carry out effective policies to improve the living conditions of migrants and their families, and hence strengthen links between Mexico and its diaspora.

Birthright Israel is a private organisation (funded by the Government of Israel, Jewish communities around the world and committed philanthropists) that sponsors trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. The organisation aims to “change the course of Jewish history and ensure the continuity of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and solidarity with Israel via an educational trip to Israel for Jewish young adults around the world” (www.birthrightisrael.com). More than 400 000 participants have taken the trip to Israel (50 000 annually), of whom over 30% went back to Israel within a five-year period. Moreover, participants are 46% more likely than their counterparts to feel very much connected to Israel (Schnytzer, 2012; Saxe et al., 2011).

With over 4 million citizens living abroad, Portugal tries to maintain links with its emigrant population and engage them through active political participation. Portuguese citizens living abroad have the right to vote for the President of the Portuguese Republic, as well as for the Portuguese Parliament, where four seats are reserved for their representatives (Da Fonseca, 2012). To participate in these elections, Portuguese citizens must be registered with the Portuguese consulate and vote in person. In this way, Portugal encourages its diaspora members to remain closely attached to their country of origin.

Working in close collaboration with the Scottish Government and other private partners, Scottish Enterprise manages an International Business Network named “GlobalScot” with the objective of “harnessing the drive, ambition and talent of high profile, successful Scots (and those with an affinity with Scotland) who are committed to advancing Scotland’s economic success” (Reid, 2012). These may not necessarily be Scottish, but are nominated on the basis of affinity or mutual interest. Since its launch in 2001, the network has attracted over 650 senior level members throughout the world. Members of the GlobalScot network are based in markets that are important for Scottish companies to access, and have become important sources of investment in the Scottish economy. Finland has also developed specific diaspora programmes, such as the Centre for International Mobility (CIMO), established in 1991 (Vehkanen, 2012). This organisation, operating under the Finnish ministry of Education and Culture, aims to promote the teaching of Finnish language and culture. Whereas the bulk of funds for the CIMO comes from the Finnish Government, about 70% of the annual expenditure is drawn from external sources (e.g. the European Commission and the Nordic Council of Ministers, www.cimo.fi). Since its launch, about 25 000 people took part in CIMO’s programmes at more than 100 universities in over 30 countries around the world.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have also started to develop policies aiming to maximise the positive impact of their respective diasporas. The Estonian Government encourages emigrants to return through the so-called “return support” (cf. Chapter 2). Estonia is trying to lure back long-time emigrants (who have not lived in Estonia for at least ten years) by paying them up to EUR 2 000 per adult, but it is unclear how return support can contribute to maximising the positive economic effects of emigration, considering the Estonian migration pattern. An additional Estonian project targeting emigrants is the portal “Talents back home!”, providing emigrants with strategic information about job opportunities in the country. The portal was developed by the Estonia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Gornischeff, 2012).The co-ordination and implementation of Lithuanian diaspora policies fall within the responsibilities of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The objective of such policies is to strengthen the relationship between Lithuania and its diaspora. Therefore, in 2011, the “Global Lithuania” programme was launched. Its main goals are: 1) to encourage the maintenance of Lithuanian identity; 2) to promote involvement in the life of Lithuania; 3) to support public diplomacy efforts; 4) to transform the “brain drain” into “brain circulation”; and 5) to strengthen communication (Damusis, 2012). Generally speaking, the programme aims at maintaining links with its community abroad, and therefore matches the reality of Lithuanian diaspora, largely composed of educated individuals oriented towards permanent emigration along with their families.

The Latvian Government has established a return migration policy “to support those Latvian nationals and their families who live abroad, who consider the possibility or have already decided to return and work in Latvia or those who wish to establish their own enterprise or develop business network with Latvia” (Platonova, 2012). Recognising the heterogeneous nature of migration patterns, they offer different sorts of practical help to various types of emigrants who wish to return to Latvia.

 
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