Diaspora engagement in humanitarian action is a pandora’s box of challenges not anticipated, but also opportunities. However, it is an issue that is awaiting engagement and focus from humanitarian actors. Diaspora communities are often at the forefront raising awareness and responding to crises in their origin countries, yet diaspora humanitarian assistance remains poorly understood. Diaspora engagement is not confined to sending money home in times of crises, but additionally includes technical assistance, expert local knowledge, access to local networks of trust, resource mobilisation, advocacy, and network-building, among others.
There are numerous examples of diaspora humanitarian actions, such as the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), based in San Francisco, US, raising funds and sending relief supplies to assist in the response to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Another example is in Syria, where local networks and diaspora groups are accessing areas in the country international organisations are unable to.
However, everyone is operating in silos, and there are numerous opportunities for collaborations and to explore potential synergies between international organisations and diasporas to enhance humanitarian response. Also, there is a need to listen to diaspora voices and understand their needs, views to magnify the human capital and financial resources that they contribute to addressing humanitarian crises, whether in the UK or internationally.
Currently, Shabaka is undertaking a research project for the British Red Cross on diaspora humanitarianism. We hope to learn more about what diaspora are doing to respond to humanitarian crises whether in the UK or countries of heritage. As a preliminary project, Shabaka is carrying out consultations with diaspora communities in the UK, focusing on Nigerian and Pakistani communities.
If you are interested in learning more about the project or you are would like to take part in the group discussions in the coming weeks, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: We are holding groups discussions with Nigerian and Pakistani diaspora communities in London (27, 29 and 31 January), Glasgow (3 and 4 February) and Manchester (6 and 7 February), also one-to-one interviews with a member of our research team by phone or in-person.