Madagascar: new diaspora engagement policy

In this interview, first published in the 2017 MIEUX Annual Report, Ms. Lanto Rahajarizafy, Director in charge of the Diaspora for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar, discusses her experience receiving support from MIEUX in the formulation of an inclusive and sustainable diaspora engagement policy that will provide a framework for the government to harness its potential for development. 

In 2017, MIEUX launched an Action in Madagascar to support the Directorate of Diaspora under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the formulation of an inclusive and sustainable diaspora engagement policy that will provide a framework for the government to harness its potential for development. Ms. Lanto Rahajarizafy, Director in charge of the Diaspora for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar, is the focal point for the MIEUX Action Madagascar 2017-03, which seeks to support the government in formulating a comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable diaspora engagement strategy.

MIEUX: Why did Madagascar decide to develop a diaspora strategy?

This process started with the end of the political crisis [in 2014] and entry into office of the new president, who has always insisted that all Malagasies, whether in Madagascar or abroad, fully participate in the reconstruction and development of the country.

Therefore, we can say that the government is aware of the potential of the diaspora and of the role it can play for the development of the country. This realisation led to stressing the importance of creating a Directorate for Diaspora Affairs within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2015. In addition, the representation of Madagascar abroad (embassies and consulates) contributes not only to the protection of and assistance to Malagasies in other countries but also to the mobilisation of the diaspora in order to foster their further engagement with their country of origin. The main objective has been to promote diaspora participation in the development of Madagascar.

MIEUX: What is the objective of this strategy? How will this strategy allow you to foster better synergies with your partners?

Currently, we have the objective to allow our diaspora to participate in the development of Madagascar. The main objective of this strategy is therefore to implement measures aiming at promoting and fostering such diaspora participation for the economic and social development of our country. This involves multiple domains, such as remittances, investment, return to the country of origin and promotion of Madagascar abroad. In terms of synergies, already in the planning phase of this strategy, we opted for a participatory approach involving all relevant development stakeholders: public and private sectors, and especially our diaspora. Consultations will take place at the national level and with our diaspora abroad. The Action will involve all actors who are aware of the issues at stake and the potential of the Malagasy diaspora. For instance, in October 2017 we organised a Diaspora Forum in Antananarivo and we were able to count on the active support and participation of the private sector, civil society and all relevant stakeholders. This showed the interest of these actors in relation to the participation of the diaspora in the development of Madagascar. We hope, too, that international organisations and our financial partners will support this strategy as always, especially considering that it is linked to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is an integral part of the development policy of Madagascar.

MIEUX: Among all existing initiatives, why did you request MIEUX’s assistance? What is its added value compared with other similar initiatives? How do you think MIEUX will be able to support you in achieving your objectives?

We came to know of MIEUX during a bilateral meeting with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This meeting aimed at discussing some avenues for cooperation in the field of migration and development, and in particular about the will of Madagascar to create a national diaspora engagement policy. It was then that this initiative and its importance were mentioned to us. When we had a look at the information materials, we became convinced that this initiative could help us in the development of this policy. Madagascar had no experience in this regard. The creation of the Diaspora Directorate was in itself an innovation. We also work with other organisations but not on public policies. Therefore, a good opportunity was presented to us: this pushed us to look to MIEUX. In addition to this, we were able to consult the policy of Burundi, also developed with the support of MIEUX, and this confirmed our choice to request support from this initiative. We hope that MIEUX will bring us its expertise and experience in relation to this particular area of M&D.

MIEUX: How do you see the intersection between this strategy targeting the emigrant community from Madagascar and your development policies? How is the strategy meant to contribute to the efforts of Madagascar in favour of the SDGs?

We have a five-year national development policy which will come to an end in 2019 and be subsequently redefined. Nevertheless, supporting economic diplomacy through the mobilisation of resources abroad, be they in the fields of agriculture, industry or social development, is already in the current development policy.

This [diaspora] strategy focuses particularly on the participation of our diaspora in economic and social development, as well as investment and local development issues, and will be linked to the implementation of the national development strategy. In the SDGs, there is a component of migration in which we are very much interested. Above all, we would like to maximise the positive effects of migration through the involvement of our nationals abroad in the implementation of the development policy of Madagascar.

MIEUX: How do you see this Action in the context of the cooperation between Madagascar and the EU?

The cooperation between Madagascar and the EU has been fruitful and deals with several fields. So far, it has mainly targeted the development of infrastructures, agriculture and governance. It is the first time that the EU has supported us in the field of migration and this will greatly help us in the framework of the forthcoming Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In addition, thanks to the EU support, we are actively participating in the current negotiations. We hope that all this will help us establish a national migration policy, which does not exist for the moment. Thus, I hope that such cooperation will be a step towards the development of the Malagasy national migration policy and that the EU will continue to support us in this direction.

MIEUX: In what sense could this Action be mentioned as a good practice in the context of the current discussions on enhanced migration governance at global level?

This Action is greatly helping us to strengthen our governance of migration which was previously not a priority for Madagascar. Recently, we came to realise the importance of migration for our development. It is for this reason that we want to establish this strategy.

It is a long process but it has already helped us to strengthen our knowledge of our nationals abroad: their profile, their potential and their aspirations. This project will certainly help us in the adoption, soon we hope, of a national migration policy that will address not only our nationals abroad but the whole issue of migration and migrant communities. We also have challenges linked to internal migration, especially due to climate change, and we will need to take this into account in our policy.

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Download the 2017 MIEUX Annual Report