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Swiss Federal Council : Diaspora as a bridge-builder and driver of development

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06/18/2013 | 12:12pm EDT
Bern, 18.06.2013 - Diaspora communities can play a crucial role in the advancement of developing countries. Thanks to the expertise they acquire abroad, their experience and their remittances, people living abroad can make a significant contribution to improving the situation in their home countries. At a two-day conference of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), delegations from some 60 countries are discussing diaspora communities' potential as part of development policy. This is the first event to serve as an international platform for diaspora ministries and representatives.

The Swiss delegation was headed by Eduard Gnesa, the FDFA Special Ambassador for Migration. In his speech, Mr Gnesa praised the contributions of the diaspora both to their countries of origin and to their new homelands. He noted, for example, that without migrants the Swiss economy would quickly suffer. As bridge builders, migrants contribute knowledge, talent and new relationships to their new homeland. At the same time, they make important contributions to the development of their old homeland. Thus, said Gnesa, migrants send remittances totalling approximately USD 19.6 billion to their countries of origin.

According to the IOM document published in conjunction with the conference, migrants mobilise resources for the benefit of their countries of origin, and often also for that of their new homeland, in four different areas: First, in terms of human resources, migrants gain new skills and work experience that often benefit their country of origin. Second, in terms of social capital, migrants make new contacts and relationships and bring people of different backgrounds closer together. Third, they contribute economic resources, for example by sending huge sums of money back to their country of origin, or by promoting tourism. And fourth, through cultural exchange (e.g. cuisine, art and literature) which enriches the lives of countless people.

The diaspora's far-reaching contributions fully justify the development of programmes and action plans to integrate it as an actor in development cooperation efforts. In view of the wide recognition of this potential, the 60-odd states that participate in the IOM conference from 18 to 19 June in Geneva are represented by their diaspora ministers or representatives. This is the first time that a conference serves as an international platform for diaspora leaders. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports the conference with a CHF 100,000 contribution (about a third of the total costs) from the SDC's Global Programme.

The IOM conference's decisions are to be incorporated into a universally valid catalogue of policy measures. On this basis, concrete recommendations will be made to the 2nd UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, an international conference scheduled for October 2013.

Additional indications: Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47
E-Mail: info@eda.admin.ch
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