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A POLICY ON DIASPORA ENGAGEMENT

27 January 2013 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Salma Yusuf

Sri Lankan Diaspora communities ought to be engaged with some seriousness in our post-war nation-building and reconciliation efforts.
Engaging the diaspora will not only improve our foreign and international relations but also contribute to internal national stability: the link between the two is inextricable.

Grounding our foreign relations and policies in strong national positions is the way forward. Accordingly, the most credible manner of engaging the Diaspora is through addressing the rights of minorities locally, both systematically and genuinely. Rights of minorities need to be coupled with assurances for the possibility of peaceful return and life in the country. This is once again illustrative of how domestic policy and foreign policy are inextricably linked.

The opportunities that our foreign missions have to directly engage with members of the Diaspora communities places them in a critical position of being able to provide information on the situation prevailing in the country, government plans and progress. However, it must be mentioned that no attempt to subvert the importance of addressing remaining issues in our post-war efforts must be made.



PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT
The LLRC report has highlighted that there exist perceptions about the conflict areas, what happened in the conflict areas, what is being done in conflict areas, and what is the thinking of the people in the conflict areas: such in turn have an impact on the perceptions of relatives and friends overseas, the Diaspora, and the international community at large.

Hence, perception management must be accorded top priority in any effort to engage the Diaspora and reap the benefits of true reconciliation. Formulating a strong and credible visibility strategy of national progress, plans and challenges is critical to perception management. Additionally, documentation and visibility will serve the larger purpose of measuring progress and identifying gaps to be filled, thereby providing direction for taking the nation-building and reconciliation agenda forward.

A MULTI- DISCIPLINARY TASK FORCE
The final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommends that the Government constitute a Multi – Disciplinary Task Force that will include representatives from the Presidential Secretariat, External Affairs, Defense, Foreign Employment, the Private Sector, and Academia, to propose a programme of action to harness the untapped potential of the expatriate community, and to respond to the concerns of the so-called ‘hostile diaspora groups,’ and to engage them constructively with the Government and other stakeholders involved in the reconciliation process.

" The final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommends that the Government constitute a Multi – Disciplinary Task Force that will include representatives from the Presidential Secretariat, External Affairs, Defense, Foreign Employment, the Private Sector, and Academia "

AN OFFICE OF DIASPORA AFFAIRS
There may be merit in going one step further to recommend the setting up of a specially designated Office of Diaspora Affairs. The roles and responsibility of the Office must include the emphasis on highlighting the importance of Diaspora engagement in reconstruction and capacity-building; and an identification and assessment of Diaspora organizations and individuals, and contributions they can make towards reconciliation, peace-building and nation-building. It must be stressed that Diaspora contributions ought not be only limited to the financial or commercial, but also include technical and professional expertise.  The Office must ensure that the Diaspora contribution match the needs, priorities and capacities that exist in the country.

The Office must also seek to encourage visits to Sri Lanka for disillusioned members of the Diaspora community to make assessments for themselves on what is taking place and what remains to be done, and more importantly, how they themselves need to be a part of the country’s plans and future. Every effort should be made to build loyalty and seek to neutralize and counter hostility, misperceptions and grudges, real or otherwise.

A DIASPORA TRUST FUND
Valuable to such efforts would be to set up mechanisms such as a Diaspora Trust Fund which would enable those in the Diaspora to invest in specific development initiatives such as infrastructure, agriculture development, health or education facilities or even as shareholders of new private enterprises.
An Office of Diaspora Affairs must work closely with Sri Lankan Embassies and High Commissions abroad to assess the demands and resources of Diaspora organizations and individuals, and the contributions they can make towards peace-building.

" The LLRC report has highlighted that there exist perceptions about the conflict areas, what happened in the conflict areas, what is being done in conflict areas, and what is the thinking of the people in the conflict areas: such in turn have an impact on the perceptions of relatives and friends overseas, the Diaspora, and the international community at large. "

FORMS OF INVOLVEMENT AND ENGAGEMENT
Forms of Diaspora engagement that is likely to be most beneficial for the long-term development of the country must be identified.  Leveraging Remittance for development purposes can be through investment in real estate, capital markets, BONDS, and a Diaspora Trust Fund which would enable those in the Diaspora to invest in specific development initiatives such as infrastructure and agriculture development, health or education facilities or even shareholders of new private enterprises in the country.

Also must be encouraged are licensing agreements between diaspora owned or managed firms; Direct investment in local firms as joint ventures; Knowledge spill overs developing networks of scientists and professionals in different countries; Virtual return, extended visits or electronic communications; and eventually a return to permanent employment.

ATTRACTING RETURN
However, it must be remembered that much ground work has to be done to make return attractive to members of the Diaspora communities including creating conducive business environments, maintaining a sound and transparent financial sector; ensuring rapid and efficient court systems for redress and promise of safe working environments.

THE ROLE OF EMBASSIES AND HIGH COMMISSIONS
Countering negative propaganda: The opportunities that our foreign missions have to directly engage with members of the Diaspora communities places them in a critical position of being able to provide information on the situation prevailing in the country, government plans and progress.
However, it must be mentioned that no attempt to subvert the importance of addressing remaining issues in our post-war efforts must be made. The positive developments together with the success stories of hope must be emphasized with every effort given to actively engage and discuss specific and particular concerns that remain.

Overcome inadequate information about trading opportunities: This will include providing market information, supplying matching and referral services, facilitating the process whereby migrants forge host and source country bilateral trade and investment. The Diaspora can be an important source as well as facilitator of research and innovation, technology transfer and skills development. Our missions can play a critical role in encouraging such transactions and garnering the necessary interest.

THE BENEFITS
In addition to the all-important contribution to the stability of the nation and political future of the country, the Diaspora could be invaluable to supplement local capacities through the formation of a global exchange of knowledge. Admittedly, a remaining challenge is that no government mapping of Diaspora exists, current data is mainly based on those who register with embassies and high commissions. Nevertheless, the existing networks can provide a critical mass of professional peer-review, an effective mechanism for keeping in touch with frontier knowledge and a cost effective means for specialized training and skills formation.

Ultimately, the dividends of successful engagement with the Diaspora communities will be felt by the country locally through an improvement in relationships between communities and increased national stability. Diaspora engagement is by no means a small or easy task but it is one that cannot be overlooked any further in efforts to take the country forward towards genuine reconciliation.
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


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