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Diaspora Organizations and Science Two Worlds, One Mission A Dialogue on Migration and Conflict. Today’s Program. 09.30-10.00: Welcome Stephan Kampelmann & Elise Féron (INFOCON) 10.00-11.00: Keynote speech Peter Hansen (Danish Institute for International Studies) & Ruerd Ruben (CIDIN)

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Diaspora Organizations and ScienceTwo Worlds, One MissionA Dialogue on Migration and Conflict

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Today’s Program

09.30-10.00: Welcome

Stephan Kampelmann & Elise Féron (INFOCON)

10.00-11.00: Keynote speech

Peter Hansen (Danish Institute for International Studies) & Ruerd Ruben (CIDIN)

Transnational migration and development: the involvement of diaspora in post-conflict development processes

11.00-12.30: Transnational Communities in their host societies: Political Mobilization and Conflict Resolution

Speaker: Nathalie Perrin, Université de Liège, CEDEM

Discussant: Marusca Perazzi, Minority Rights Group International

12.30-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.30: Transnational Communities and Conflict Policies

Speaker: Hugh Miall, Kent University, CARC

Discussant: Jochen Hippler, Universität Duisburg-Essen

15.30-17.00: Without Romance no Future?

A debate on the integration of diaspora organizations in the development sector.

Do diaspora organizations and development organizations want to work together?

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Diasporas and Conflicts: Key Issues & Challenges(with illustrations from cases of Somalia and Great Lakes)

Peter Hansen – Ruerd Ruben


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Peter Hansen

  • PhD in anthropology

    • Fieldwork in:

      • Somaliland (1998, 1999, 2003, 2006)

      • Puntland & South-central Somalia (2005, 2006)

      • London/Copenhagen 2003 – 2010

      • Tanzania/Zanzibar (2007); Oman & UAE (2010)

  • Employed at DIIS

    • African diasporas and their role vis-à-vis homelands

    • Associational/collective remittances and engagements

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Ruerd Ruben

  • PhD in development (micro) economics

    • Field/Research experience in:

      • Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba) -1980s

      • Sub-Sahara Africa (Mali, Kenya, Burkina, Ghana)- 1990s

      • Return Migration

      • Great Lakes region (by Marieke van Houte – INFOCON)

      • Rwanda (reconstruction/reconciliation gaming) – RM students

  • Employed at CIDIN

    • Impact of civic aid networks

    • Private supply chains (remittances, fair trade, etc)

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What is “a diaspora”?

  • Describes people living outside their homelands

    • Spread of the concept from Jewish experience

  • Self-descriptive – “we are a diaspora”

    • Process of identity; taking on a particular narrative

    • Not everyone calls themselves ‘a diaspora’

  • Different from ‘transnational community’

    • Flows of goods, people, images, loyalties, etc.

  • High on the policy agenda

    • Diasporas matter to politics, economy, development, conflicts/security, etc. in homelands

    • Being “a diaspora” gives access to funds, etc. (donor darling)

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Diasporas and Conflict?

  • 1. Economy

    • Remittances & Co-Investments

  • 2. Politics

    • Engagements in conflicts

    • Engagement in peace and state building

  • 3. Identity

    • Radicalization of identities in diaspora?

  • 4. Diaspora Associations

    • Institution building & networks

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Somalian Diaspora

  • Different ‘waves’

  • 1880s : Employment

  • 1980s : Political refugees

  • 1988s : Exodus (from North Somalia)

  • 1991 : Independence

  • 1991 : Exodus (from South Somalia)

  • 1992 : First returns (from Africa)

  • 1997 : Diaspora returns

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1991 -

1988 -

Employment/education (from 1880)


1997 – diaspora returns


Political refugees 1980s


1992 – returns

Exodus 1988

1988 -

1991 -

India, Malaysia

Exodus 1991 -

1991 -

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Characteristics of diaspora(s)

  • Constantly looking for greener pastures

  • Large and significant

    • influence politics, economy, social life, culture, etc.

  • United

    • Religion; extended family; language; cultural identity

  • Divided / diverse

    • Clans; politicals; time spent abroad; years of arrival; class, etc.

  • Intense transnational activity

    • ‘Integration’ in host country and engagement with homeland are linked (not opposed)

    • Western citizenships, education, money and networks are drivers of transnational engagements (dual identities)

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Remittances and security

  • Primary economy

    • 150 million migrants

    • 300 billion USD remittances (in 1.5 billion transactions)

    • efficient, cheap (?), “lifeline” , complex hawala systems

  • Private Consumption & Investment

    • Much used for direct consumption (family survival)

    • Some investment in capital goods, self employment, social services, etc.

  • Collective remittances

    • Goods, equipment to schools, clinics, etc. (reconstruction)

  • Humanitarian assistance

    • Response to Disasters, Emergency assistance (Haiti), food, droughts, etc.

  • Increase when other capital flows decrease

    • Counter-cyclical !

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Remittances flows (% GDP)

Hansen (2008): Diasporas and Fragile States

Remittances flows to fragile and non-fragile countries are about the same:

15 % of GNI

(but FDI to fragile countries is substantially lower!)

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Remittances and insecurity

  • Support for clans / militias

    • Remittances collected amongst diaspora community

    • Requests for help to local militia (when visiting homeland)

  • Support for local movements

    • Civil Society & Grassroots

    • NGOs

  • Increasing social differentiation?

    • Land/house disputes, Social conflicts, resentment etc.

    • Particular skills (ICT, business); economic advantages

    • Countered by (re)distribution of funds within extended family?

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Engagements in the conflict

  • Support to National Movements

    • Some formed in exile; relocated to homeland

    • Diasporic support to local parties

  • Accumulation of cultural capital in the West

    • The “Brain Gain” as part of the conflict (bargaining skills)

    • Impact on gender attitudes?

  • Contribution to violence?

    • Some returnees joining local resistance

    • But often not effective fighters

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Engaging in state building

  • Participation in Peace meetings

    • Mediating and countering the influence of local clans

    • Both at home and abroad

  • Establishment of the political system

    • Returnees as politicians (e.g. 30/82 MPs; 10/29 minister); party leaders (2 out of 3); ‘spin doctors’, party secretaries, etc.

  • Participation in a public sphere

    • Advocacy, e.g. African Forum; through Internet, etc.

    • Civil society activists; watchdogs vis-à-vis the government

  • Continuous support for the case

    • Demonstrations, lobbyism, etc. (abroad)

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Radicalization – yes!

  • Context of radicalization: high risk

    • Marginalisation; social isolation; unemployment; stigma

  • Some cases of (Islamic) radicalization

    • Suicide-bombers and diaspora jihadists as exceptions

  • Radicalization of political identities

    • Returnees fighting against invasion (Ethiopia, US, EU)

    • After withdrawal less appeal to diasporic migrants

    • More ‘nationalism’ than ‘globalism’

  • Essentialization of own identity

    • We are proud; we have a good culture

    • We have clans, we know who we are

    • Bulwark against stigma and racism

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Radicalization – no!

  • Migrants are pragmatics

    • Extremism is expensive

    • Survival Strategies based on mobility, flexibility, opportunism

  • Migrants are fairly liberal

    • Little appeal for radical interpretation of Islam

  • Return is rarely linked to religion

    • But to search for opportunities

    • Nostalgia, belonging, food, language, recognition, etc.

  • Often “democratic”, “civil” and “modern”

    • Value citizenship, elections, human rights, etc.

    • Less emphasis on traditional clans

    • Knowledge of the nation-state and citizenship survived in diaspora

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Diaspora Associations

  • Often reflect clan/regional divisions and loyalties

    • Mostly latent identities

    • Beware of particular (local) interests!

  • Most are not (only) focused on homelands

    • Integration, employment, rights, language, culture, etc.

    • Lack of knowledge, networks and funding

    • Conflicts of homeland may spill-over into the diaspora

  • Engagement is driven by many interests

    • Altruism, loyalty, patriotism, moral responsibility, etc.

    • Return, investments, livelihoods, recognition, masculinity, etc.

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  • Diaspora often lack knowledge, effective networks, etc.

  • Diaspora can be romantic, naïve, idealistic and/or radical

    • Even more with second generation

  • Diaspora does not reach everyone

    • Migrant networks mostly tied to urban and middle/upper class

    • Scarcely reach the poor and rural/nomadic areas?

    • Policy implication: diaspora is not a magic bullet for development

  • What can we expect from the diaspora – what belongs to their responsibility?

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  • Participation in mediating conflicts of the homeland

  • Introduction of new values and ideas

    • Mostly through face-to-face interaction (e.g. during return visits)

    • Also in interpersonal relations

  • Wealth of associations and capacities

    • Except for cases of ‘poverty migration’

  • Limited resentment between ‘locals’ and ‘diaspora’

  • May broker between local and international realities

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Ways forward

  • Identify ‘relevant’ diaspora associations

    • Locate those that are capable and isolate those that are not or contribute to conflict

  • Building capacity of diaspora associations

    • Human, financial and institutional capacity building

    • E.g. ‘3 for 1 programs’ (buddies)

  • Improve coordination and prevent copycats

    • Many do the same things

  • Be creative/think “out of the box”

    • Look beyond formal associations (informal networks)

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Diaspora Organizations and ScienceTwo Worlds, One Mission

Thank you!

We wish you a fruitful seminar