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  • Ireland Funds publish diaspora strategies report

    Saturday, September 12th, 2009

    “A comparative review of international diaspora strategies” has been published by the Ireland Funds.  The document examines a number of aspects of individual nations’ diaspora policies and makes recommendations for Ireland. Report authors Kingsley Aikins, Dr. Anita Sands and Nicola White build on a growing body of diaspora strategy work being done around the world, most notably  by the World Bank and, in Ireland, by Mark Boyle, Rob Kitchin and Daphne Ancien at NUI Maynooth.

    The report is comprehensive in its scope and exciting in the possibilities and initiatives it suggests. Among its key points:

    • Ireland has the potential to join India and Israel in the top three nations for diaspora development; India and Israel can serve as valuable models for Ireland in proactively engaging with the diaspora, while Ireland can serve as a model for other nations.
    • The report introduces the concept of “The Global Irish 1000” – a small number of exceptional people that can make a key difference, but says that this concept and the fact that the communications revolution has enabled large-scale connections are not mutually exclusive.
    • Ireland’s global knowledge network will be key to engaging the diaspora and allowing them to play a role in such initiatives as the Smart Economy and ‘talent acceleration’ programmes.
    • Programmes allowing members of the diaspora to spend time learning in Ireland should be developed – not only for young people, but for older people as well.
    • A certificate of Irish ancestry could give official recognition to those with Irish ancestry who are not eligible for citizenship, along with a number of privileges.
    • A system of recognition should be developed to honour those in the diaspora.
    • Ireland needs to develop its competitiveness in the global cultural arena – and needs to have a profile similar to those built up for other nations by organisations such as the British Council, Alliance Francaise, and the Goethe Institute.

    If there’s any frustration that an engaged reader might feel while reading the report, it’s that some of these initiatives have been suggested many times over the last few years. The award system is one case in point: The 2002 Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigration recommended this, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern discussed it in the Dail in 2007, it’s recommended in this year’s strategic review of US-Ireland relations, and yet there has been no public proposal.

    Much has been achieved since the Task Force, but there remain so many proposed initiatives waiting to be developed.

    One point which is notable for its absence in such a comprehensive review is the notion of political participation by overseas citizens. With 115 countries allowing their non-resident citizens to vote,  it seems inevitable that at some point this will become an issue in Ireland as well. The reports’ two favoured model countries, Israel and India offer interesting case studies on the issue: Neither allow their expats to vote currently, but the topic is becoming increasingly prominent in both nations – and not without controversy. (In Israel, a recently defeated proposal  was favoured by the Right, who believe it will help them; in India the Prime Minister reportedly promised non-resident voting rights in 2006, while another government minister said more recently the issue of accommodating non-resident voting was under discussion.)

    The Ireland Funds has been rebranding themselves to more fully showcase their changed their slogan to “The Global Irish Making a Difference Together”. They note the organisation is “a global leader in the area of diaspora philanthropy”, having raised over $300 million and funded over 1,200 organisations in Ireland and beyond.  They add:

    With such a track record, The Ireland Funds is now looked upon as a thought leader in the area of diaspora engagement and through a range of research, conferences, seminars and presentations is actively contributing to the body of knowledge in the field of diaspora studies, bringing a vital practitioner perspective.

    Download the report from the Ireland Funds website.