Reflections from Diaspora: Diplomacy: Development Conference

Reflections from Diaspora: Diplomacy: Development Conference

By Samah Ahmed

The Shabaka team attended the Diaspora, Diplomacy and Development Conference in Dublin, Ireland on 24th -26th May 2018, hosted by University College Dublin (UCD).  The conference brought together a fantastic group of practitioners, scholars, academics, government representatives, entrepreneurs and independent researchers. Focusing on the history, politics, social and cultural experiences of diaspora, everything was up for discussion, from the benefits of the global diaspora and their powers to make a difference in both in their countries of origin and countries of destination, to how big data can be harnessed to streamline hiring the right candidate, to the role food plays in cultural diplomacy!

As a diaspora led and focused organisations, this was the perfect opportunity for the Shabaka team to present some of our research. My own panel session on Diaspora and Diplomacy, designed as a collaborative quick-fire round of presentations, followed by Q&A, where interesting case studies from China, India and Canada were discussed, each of which presented a mix of challenges and current views of the role of diaspora. And a productive question and answer session highlighted areas for future work. The theme of my presentation focused on Second-Generation Diaspora and Digital Cultural Diplomacy with Sudanese diaspora as a case study.


Bashair Ahmed’s presented highlights of her PhD findings “Children of Migrants as Transnational Humanitarian and Development Actors- Challenges and Opportunities” during the panel on Diaspora and Development, chaired by Dr Laura Hammond, Reader at SOAS and findings from Shabaka’s “Diaspora, Development and Humanitarian Response-Motivations, Opportunities and Challenges for Children of Migrants report during the Diaspora Diplomacy panel, chaired by Dr Elaine Ho, Associate Professor at National University of Singapore. The response to both presentations were great and generated a lot of discussions, during and between sessions, notably around the concept of double-diaspora, misconceptions on views of children of migrants and how they engage in activism.

Ireland was well-represented by Kingsley Aikins, CEO of Diaspora Matters, a speaker and panel member at the conference, as well as panellists Colman Lydon (Irish International Business Network), Joanna Murphy (Connect Ireland), Martin O’Brien (Social Change Initiative), who certainly gave the audience some valuable insights into how to focus on high profile diaspora – who they are, their needs, and how to engage with them – with country of origin development as the overall aim. There is certainly a lot to learn of how Ireland has sought to work with its vast diaspora (estimated around 70 million, whilst the current population of Ireland is under 5 million!).


We found the panels on day two particularly engaging, with a focus on academic reflection on the intersections between diaspora, diplomacy, and development, a range of accomplished presenters discussed the complexities of diaspora identity and the nuances that entail. As a practitioner in the contemporary diaspora space, and a member of the diaspora myself, there was resonance with the need for all of us to be responsible when it comes to representation, as part of the fabric of present diaspora and development nexus, this role cannot be taken lightly.


The conference certainly offered an opportunity beyond just presenting our papers, over three days, there was plenty of conversations over coffee and side meetings, and by the end of the three days, we left inspired by those doing amazing work all over the world, and energised by the potential that soon, we’ll have the opportunity to work on some amazing interdisciplinary collaborative projects.



Further details on the conference can be found HERE

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