The purpose of the forum, now in its third year, was to challenge diaspora communities to forge partnerships with the private sector, civil society and public institutions in order to make their engagements with their countries of origin or ancestry effective and sustainable. This year marks the first time that the event has a European component, which took place in Dublin to mark the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and ran simultaneously with the US component in Washington and a satellite event in Silicon Valley.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Where Ideas Meet Action” and the organisers planned two full days of engaging discussions, networking opportunities, and forums to share diaspora matters with delegates from around the world. Forum delegates took place in a two-day series of workshops on diaspora engagement, covering issues as diverse as Diaspora remittances, the role of government in Diaspora engagement, Diaspora tourism and job creation.
In his opening remarks, Gerry Dunne, CEO of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company and conference Co-Chair, outlined plans for Dun Laoghaire to host a "truly world class international diaspora centre". As part of this project, Mr Dunne co-founded the Irish International Diaspora Centre Trust (IIDC), which has worked for the promotion of Diaspora as a theme at EU level and found a "real appetite for the development of an EU policy on Diaspora".
Emer Costello, Member of the European Parliament, noted that while the European Union has called for ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, many people in Europe reside outside their country of origin and “we have not garnered the idea of a European Diaspora”. Mrs Costello added that engaging with diaspora within Europe and around the world could provide Europe with valuable ideas and investment at a time of economic crisis. Mrs Costello also drew attention to the seminar on Diaspora which she hosted at the European Parliament in September 2012, in partnership with the IIDC.
In his keynote address, Robert Guest, Business Editor, the Economist magazine, noted that “we are living in a great new age of mobility” and there are more people moving across borders than ever before. Networks of migrants speed the flow of information across borders, they provide trust-based connections across borders and are smarter than the sum of their parts. This connected nature of diaspora networks “makes the world brainier”.
Tuesday afternoon saw the forum addressed by US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Robert Hormats, who stated that the greatest medical cures of the 21st century “will not come from one country but from collectivities” working together to find cures, and that diaspora scientists in the United States can be particularly valuable in maintaining links with scientists around the world.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, declared that diaspora engagement can be an “enormous source of soft power” and that a successful diaspora policy “must reflect diversity and avoid a one-size-fits-all” approach.
Attention will now turn to the development of international collaborative projects on Diaspora to be implemented under Horizon 2020 and other international funding mechanisms.
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Note to Editors
Around the world, Diaspora is gaining unprecedented attention from policymakers. 2012 saw the first Global African Diaspora Summit bring together 64 Heads of State and the second annual Global Diaspora Forum convened by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Seeking to build on this momentum, ISC, Emer Costello MEP, together with ISC Intelligence and the Irish International Diaspora Centre Trust, organised a seminar in the European Parliament in Brussels in September 2012 to discuss the impact of Diaspora on EU policy priorities and explore options for making Diaspora a theme of EU policy. The seminar brought together MEPs and officials from EU institutions, embassy representatives, academia and industry to examine options for Diaspora as a theme of EU policy, with particular emphasis on how this can support job creation and entrepreneurship, scientific research and innovation, education and development cooperation. 2013 is also the year of "The Gathering", tourism-led initiative in Ireland. It aims to mobilise the Irish diaspora to return to Ireland during 2013 to be part of specially organised local gatherings and events during the year.