September 22, 2009
Contact: Michelle Mittelstadt
WASHINGTON — The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today released a new book which examines the institutions that developing countries have created to engage more systematically with their citizens living abroad.
Closing the Distance: How Governments Can Strengthen Ties with Their Diasporas offers an unprecedented taxonomy of the diaspora-engaging institutions found in 30 developing countries. The volume, edited and with an introductory chapter by MPI Policy Analyst Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias, also includes chapters written by senior practitioners from Mexico, the Philippines and Mali.
At a time when emigrants and their descendents increasingly are seen as agents of development, the book explores the activities and objectives of 45 diaspora-engaging institutions in 30 countries.
It also provides important perspectives from the country case studies offered by Carlos González Gutiérrez, Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento and former Executive Director of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad; Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, Chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines and former Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment; and Badara Aliou Macalou, Minister of Malians Abroad and African Integration.
"Increasingly, governments are becoming aware of the need to pursue a more active role in relation to diaspora populations in order to involve them productively in development," said Kathleen Newland, Director of MPI's Migrants, Migration and Development Program and author of the book's foreword. "Our research highlights the tremendous variety of forms that diaspora-engagement institutions take, at different levels of government, in the homeland and abroad, formally independent from the government or embedded in official structures. It also points to the gap between the ambitions and the achievements of diaspora institutions, often because of inadequate resources, but also because of inexperience, poor design and divisions within diasporas."
The book identifies several attributes for successful diaspora engagement. "From our research, it's clear that there are a few critical ingredients for success," said Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias, the book's editor. "First, a government should set a clear goal of what it hopes to achieve by engaging its diaspora. Also, it must understand the characteristics of its diaspora by collecting important information on the location, age, gender, income level and human-capital endowment of its members. The government must communicate effectively with diaspora members, and coordinate efforts across agencies. And finally, it must offer some benefit to the diaspora in return for engagement. Achieving these goals demands that governments do serious preparatory work before they create new institutions, and invest in the process as well as the infrastructure of diaspora engagement. They also need to make sure that governmental diaspora institutions are integrated in national development planning."
For more information on the book or to order a copy, please visit: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/bookstore/closing_distance.php
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.