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Unfinished tasks in diaspora affairs – Part three

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by Maxwell Haywood Fri Apr 5, 2013

This is the final part of this article. This week, I highlight the unfinished tasks in diaspora affairs by looking at the roles of various sectors.

Private business sector

The creation and development of a Vincentian Business Association in countries where Vincentians live is an urgent task in diaspora affairs. There are many Vincentians who own businesses located outside SVG.{{more}} There are also many Vincentians in the diaspora who possess skills in various areas of business, and there are also business students. These entities could be brought together in an association to promote the business interests of Vincentians at home and abroad.

It is important to point out here that diaspora entrepreneurship goes in two directions. The first direction is direct investments of Vincentians abroad in their home country SVG. Secondly, they could become distributors for goods and services sent by the home country to the host country. Nostalgia trade or ethnic trade is an important segment of this second aspect. In the nostalgia trade or ethnic trade market, the private sector could find opportunities. Globally, this type of trade is worth billions of dollars. Vincentian business persons should seriously put some effort into making use of this market.

Civil society/NGO sector

There are many Vincentian organizations and groups existing outside SVG. They could be referred to as civil society organizations (CSOs) or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Already, they have shown potential in making meaningful contributions to SVG. As a matter of fact, over the many decades of their existence they have been serving various causes in the development process of Vincentians at home and abroad. This could be seen in the field of sports, cultural arts, health, education, and others.

In spite of all these contributions, important stones have been left unturned. In the major countries where Vincentians reside, there are still no established Vincentian centres that are known. There is none in the USA, Canada, or the UK. This is another urgent task for Vincentian organizations and individuals living abroad, which should be done in cooperation with relevant institutions and persons in SVG.

The SVG Diaspora Framework For Action, created in 2009, called on the relevant organizations and persons to “Establish centers throughout the Diaspora for building the base to effectively and efficiently promote the interests and heritage of Vincentians.” These will be development centres that will be used to promote the interests of SVG and Vincentians living abroad. They will host events and provide social, economic, political and cultural information and other resources that could assist the integration of Vincentians into the host country.

There are many events and activities in the Vincentian diaspora. Often, these are known after the fact or just before these events and activities take place. Thus they run the risk of not being fully supported. And no proper record is there of these events and activities. Therefore, it is important that a calendar of activities be created to address this matter.

Periodic meetings of Vincentians should constantly be organized in each major location where Vincentians reside. This could be in the form of Conferences held every year or every two to three years, as is currently being done by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.

These conferences could be linked to SVG in a direct way, not only in content, but in logistics as well. The Homecoming Conference process was a fairly good example of how this could be done. Conferences could be held in the diaspora, possibly in May-July, and then in December during the International Day of Migrants and Diaspora Week of Activities in SVG, a final conference could be held in SVG to bring together the outcomes of the conferences held in the diaspora from May-July.

Closely related to this conference process is the need to create a global Vincentian diaspora organization. Much could be gained by coordinating and leveraging our resources from all countries where Vincentians live.

Within the diversity of organizations and persons in the diaspora, there is an urgent task to achieve and sustain unity. Vincentian organizations and persons in the diaspora should become more alert to threats to unity and to make use of opportunities to strengthen unity. The diaspora must be very vigilant against forces trying to deliberately or unconsciously sow discord among the people, based on organizational turf protection and political party alignment in SVG.

Furthermore, the time has come to build a network between Vincentian organizations in the diaspora and NGOs in SVG.

Cooperative sector

The cooperative sector needs to reach out more to the diaspora and the diaspora needs to do the same in return. But this outreach has to be highly organized and focused. There is much room for this kind of linkage. Through a well thought-out strategy, the cooperative sector, including credit unions, could enhance the worth of this sector. The diaspora could support cooperatives at home by becoming members and supporters. Vincentians abroad could help in creating cooperatives in SVG and in the diaspora.

Media

During the consultations held in SVG by the SVG Diaspora Committee of New York Inc in 2011 with all of the major sectors in SVG, the proposal was made by the media professionals that a Diaspora SVG Media Foundation should be established to promote relations between the media and the diaspora. Two years before that, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Framework for Action higlighted that: “(1) St. Vincent and the Grenadines has many people in many lands, which are shaping the nation with many hands. The media in St. Vincent and the Grenadines must continue to reflect the contributions and potential of these many hands in the Diaspora; (2) The media in St. Vincent and the Grenadines should continuously reach out to Vincentians in the Diaspora. Reliable channels of distribution of the Vincentian media output must be explored; and (3) Regular on air or television programs, geared towards discussing relations between St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the Diaspora.”

Political parties

Political parties in SVG should urgently see to it that they do not spread political divisiveness to places where Vincentians live outside SVG. Recently, this has become an issue, putting obstacles in the way of uniting Vincentians abroad in the interest of SVG’s development. This issue has very deep implications for the unity of the nation and diaspora.

Conclusion

SVG diaspora affairs would be on a much better foundation when all these tasks I highlighted are fully addressed. It will be a great time when we put these elements effectively in place.

This article brings this series to an end. I hope it provided a clearer view on what tasks are to be done to fundamentally transform diaspora relations in a positive way.

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