MIEUX Reflections: Innovation in diaspora engagement

Quote from Ms Stephanie Berry

What stood out about this mission in particular?

It’s a combination of two things: the unique features of the Malagasy diaspora and the enthusiasm that permeates from the Directorate of the Diaspora under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which requested assistance to draft the new Diaspora Engagement Policy. 

The Malagasy diaspora is relatively small in numbers, concentrated in France, and mostly high-skilled with a large percentage of women. This is quite a different profile from other diasporas we have dealt with through MIEUX Actions and this gives us an opportunity to look into a range of innovative methods to devise a strategy.

In recent years there has been increasing recognition of the role that the diaspora can play in the development of their home countries and so governments and diaspora members and associations are increasingly looking to strengthen that link by facilitating investments and the transfer of knowledge. During the preliminary phase of Action set up, it was clear that the government wanted to involve the diaspora throughout all the stages of preparation for the new strategy.

Also, a Diaspora Forum had taken place in October 2017, a few weeks before the first of the MIEUX missions, which meant that momentum had been building up within the government as well as among diaspora members. Finally, all the institutions that we encountered during the first mission were well-prepared and knowledgeable about the topic.

What channels are you thinking of using to attract Malagasy diaspora to take part in this process?

Everything is yet to be determined as we are still in the early phases of development of the Action, but we will definitely look at how to incorporate social media channels in terms of outreach and activities. Where possible we would also look at discussing this matter with existing diaspora networks or other projects that could possibly open up complementary channels of communication such as ADEPT or FORIM.

What element of this Action are you most looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to assisting in the preparation of consultation rounds with the members of the Malagasy diaspora because it’s always interesting to see how positions are negotiated and then how the results of that negotiation find their way into the final product. Consultations are always an essential feature of any well-designed policy. They are necessary to close the loop and to balance the resulting policy so that the agenda is not driven by a single stakeholder, whilst adding value by improving the communication channels between members of the diaspora and government.

How does this relate to other diaspora engagement policies that you’ve assisted with?

It's very nice to see that the Government won’t focus just on the investment angle, but is also exploring possibilities around knowledge transfer, for example in the healthcare industry.

In terms of procedure, this Action is innovative because of the Ministry's approach to involving a wider range of stakeholders, and the marked ambition to promote a whole-of-government approach. It’s always interesting to see how capacity building activities lead to more ownership of the strategy by the different ministries involved.

In terms of content, this strategy is very similar to others I have implemented (Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Côte d'Ivoire). All governments who wish to begin the process of building a new diaspora policy need more information on the social, demographic and economic profile of their diaspora members before being able to tap into available resources. 

Find out more about this Action.

Find out more about our work in Africa.

MIEUX Reflections is an ongoing series that provides a space where our Project Staff can share their insights on their recent missions. On any given week, a member of the MIEUX team, together with a group of experts, can be deployed around the world to support EU partner countries in reviewing, transforming and reinforcing their migration policies. These missions provide opportunities to interact with the full range of local, regional and/or national actors that are involved in MIEUX’s activities.

Once on the ground, the many months of preparation come alive, inspiring the Project Staff to go forward and apply Lessons Learnt into new activities.