Diaspora Matters

What the home country can do for the diaspora

zim ach

Rewards and recognition Over the past several years, many countries in developing their diaspora strategies have included a mechanism for formal recognition. While it may be considered unnecessary, an act of recognition or expression of appreciation is likely to ignite a positive reaction from particular segments of the diaspora and would help highlight many of the efforts made on the part of particular individuals or organizations, which can otherwise go unrecognized. Having a mechanism through which to thank diaspora members will potentially increase engagement, raise awareness and generate substantial good will. In short, there is much more upside than downside. Possible systems for reward and recognition include:

The creation of a formal civic honors system, such as the Order of Canada, Legion d’Honneur in France, the Order of Australia, the British Honors List;

Universities acknowledging successful members of the diaspora either in the form of honorary degrees or through appointments as visiting fellows, adjunct faculty members, etc.;

Recognition could come through the network of the home country’s embassies and consulates around the world;

An invitation to a small gathering hosted by a visiting member of the home country’s Government is a form of recognition in and of itself. Diaspora members like to feel that if they are giving of their time and expertise to advise on particular matters a fitting form of acknowledgement is access to Government at senior levels;

Sponsoring trips home to meet domestic companies whom diaspora members could potentially assist is also seen as a form of acknowledgement; or

Membership in some recognized body of advisors, with a working title. Such an appointment suggests that the person is in a privileged position to help homeland companies, agencies, organizations or Government and is an acknowledgement of his/her global expertise.

Examples of recognition systems
Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are an expression of honor by the Government of India to members of the Indian diaspora. The award ceremony has been constituted to acclaim those overseas Indians who have done exceptional work in their chosen field/profession. It has been organized by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs every year since 2003. Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards are reserved exclusively for nonresident Indians and persons of Indian origin. The awards are conferred on those overseas Indians who have made an outstanding contribution towards fostering better understanding abroad of India and its civilization; for persons who have extended their support to India’s causes and concerns; and for those who made her proud by brilliant performance in their field of merit.

World-class New Zealand Awards Now in their eighth year, the World Class New Zealand Awards are one of the country’s most important accolades for outstanding individuals who have made major contributions to New Zealand’s success on the world stage. The annual red-carpet, black tie awards hosted by the Prime Minister are attended by 500 New Zealand business leaders.

Zimbabwe Achievers Awards The Zimbabwe Achievers Awards aim to recognize the commitment to excellence, creativity, innovation and dedication of Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom who have continued to expand on their talents and skill-set whilst celebrating their heritage. Categories for awards include: business woman of the year, business man of the year, sports personality of the year, event of the year, and outstanding contribution.

Governor-General’s Achievement Award Scheme (Jamaica) In 1991 the Governor-General’s Achievement Award Scheme was established to acknowledge and award the meaningful contribution of individuals at the community level. This Awards Scheme celebrates the success of these volunteers and highlights the impact of the award recipients on community and national life. There are three categories of awards under the Governor-General’s Achievement Award Scheme, one of which is the Governor-General’s Jamaican Diaspora Award for Excellence. This award was presented for the first time in 2008 and is given to three individuals who demonstrate exceptional service to Jamaica and communities in their countries of residence – United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. These awards are presented biennially to three individuals.

Remember forgotten diaspora members

It must be remembered that while there are a great number of high level influencers within the diaspora, there may also be vulnerable and forgotten members of the diaspora,
particularly older persons living in isolation, poverty and deprivation without the support of family and friends. Any diaspora policy must also provide for these members of the ‘Forgotten Diaspora’ – most of whom would have made provision for their homeland throughout their lives through substantial remittances or other means. An example of a diaspora initiative reflecting this need is The Ireland Funds philanthropic campaign entitled ‘The Forgotten Irish’ which is principally directed at those Irish migrants who went to Britain in the second half of the twentieth century. The majority left to find work, and sent billions of pounds home to their families. At the end of their working lives, many had the means to go home, however, many are still in Britain, often living in isolation, poverty and deprivation – without the support of friends or family. It has been estimated that there are in the region of 100,000 ‘forgotten Irish’ living in Britain with varying levels of need, ranging from homelessness and deprivation to social exclusion, or simply crippling loneliness. Furthermore, The Forgotten Irish Award was
created by the Funds to recognize the efforts made by a group or individual toward helping the vulnerable and elderly Irish community in the UK.

ZBIN has a solid chapter in Cape Town headed by Rodwell Mawoneke and  he is reachable on +27 78 695 9040. More Chapters for the forum being strengthened in Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia.

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