Posted on

Unfinished tasks in diaspora affairs – Part Two

Share

Thurs Mar 28, 2013

by Maxwell Haywood

In part one of this article, I presented a brief overview and context of the relations between SVG and its sons and daughters living abroad, in the diaspora. In this article, I will highlight several urgent tasks that must be accomplished, especially by government, in order to take SVG to a higher level of diaspora affairs.{{more}}

National Diaspora Policy

Importantly, there is urgent need for a National Diaspora Policy for SVG. As far back as 2009, Vincentians met in the United States during the Homecoming Conference and finalized the SVG Diaspora Framework For Action, which states that the people “Call on the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines to formulate a National Diaspora Policy in partnership with the Diaspora. The timeframe for completing this effort should be within 2 years.”

The National Diaspora Policy is important in a number of ways. Through this policy, the government will signal to Vincentians at home and abroad that the government is very serious about effectively transforming diaspora relations. A policy will set out the vision for development of diaspora relations. It establishes the expectations of government regarding what the government and people of SVG look forward to in terms of diaspora relations. It will strengthen commitment and help to build partnership throughout the policy process. It will also facilitate the formal integration of the diaspora into the development processes of SVG.

The policy will provide a clearer view for all Vincentians in terms of the perspectives, issues, and means for building effective diaspora relations. The policy will serve the purpose of removing constraints that prevent the Vincentian diaspora from fully contributing to the development process of SVG.

Interestingly, when Prime Minister Dr Gonsalves spoke at the SVG Diaspora and Development Conference, held in New York in 2012, he stated that … “my government has already approved, in principle, a Working Draft of a document entitled “A Diaspora Policy for St Vincent and the Grenadines” through the instrumentality of the Regional Integration and Diapora Unit (RIDU) in consultation with the relevant stakeholders at home and abroad. It is a matter upon which we shall further build after this SVG Diaspora and Development Conference. The Diaspora Policy will then be finalized for Cabinet approval and Parliamentary endorsement.”

Database

Another urgent task is the creation and development of a database of diaspora and SVG resources, needs, priorities, policies, and projects. This database has been spoken about for many years. Yet, it has not become reality. The time is now.

Specifically, this data base should consist of the human resources existing in the Vincentian diaspora so that relevant skills, knowledge, and expertise could be easily identified and tapped, based on the needs and priorities of the nation. The database should also include the social resources found in the Vincentian diaspora such as: diaspora organizations and networks, businesses, political leaders of Vincentian heritage living in the diaspora, and major events and activities.
 
It should also go further and include the political and diplomatic resources of SVG outside of SVG, such as: consulates, embassies, missions, tourism offices, etc. Moreover, the data-base should consist of national development needs and priorities such as: the development needs and major priorities of the various sectors; and the sectoral development policies and projects at the local and national levels that will address these development needs and priorities.
 
Local communities will be able to submit their projects for the Vincentian diaspora and the rest of the world to see and assist. This database is vital in order to call for and meaningfully deploy the human, social, and political resources existing in the diaspora.

Government mechanisms

In SVG, the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit (RIDU) was established in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Indeed, the full potential of RIDU is far from being realized. A more active diaspora mechanism is urgently needed.
 
Over the years since its existence RIDU has not been able to focus effectively on diaspora affairs. Attention must be paid to having the right personnel and resources in place to do this work. Also, RIDU should place more emphasis on creating the appropriate environment in SVG for diaspora affairs to reach its full potential. It must also work closely with diaspora organizations and persons to lift diaspora relations to a higher level of mutual benefit.

Moreover, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Framework for Action, USA, states that “A coordinating and consultative committee of relevant stakeholders should be established in St Vincent and the Grenadines to guide the Vincy Homecoming process and relations with the Diaspora.”

This national coordinating and consultative committee is important, since diaspora affairs are multi-dimensional. It cuts across the work of various sectors and ministries. Diaspora work is related to government or public sector, civil society sector, private business sector, and the cooperative sector. Also, diaspora work cuts across finance, foreign affairs, legal affairs, immigration, tourism, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), education, labour/employment, gender, youth, community development, economic investments, trade, sports, culture, housing, etc.
 
Other government related institutions that are connected to such a committee include Invest SVG, National Insurance Scheme, etc. Civil society organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and the cooperative sector must be an integral part of this committee. A coordinated response to migration, diaspora, and development could be very beneficial to Vincentians at home and abroad. It is inefficient and ineffective when each of the sectors and ministries relate separately to the diaspora, as is the norm now.

Of course there are many more tasks related to the government that need to be looked at. These tasks I highlighted are in my view the urgent tasks of the government. The final part of this article will look at the urgent tasks of other sectors.

LAST NEWS