AS the University of Guyana (UG) prepares to host a major inaugural diaspora engagement conference, plans are in train for the launch of a Diaspora Engagement Centre in December this year.
The initiative was announced by the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr Ivelaw Griffith, who along with Mexico’s Ambassador to Guyana , Ivan Robero Sierra Medel and other university officials, briefed the media at the Mexican Embassy on Brickdam on Thursday of UG’s upcoming diaspora conference . The event is slated for July 23-28 at the Ramada Georgetown Princess on the East Bank of Demerara.
According to Dr Griffith, the diaspora centre is being pursued as an avenue to assist the university in working with persons in the diaspora. He said the idea of the establishment of the centre is to enable a permanent entity to facilitate a variety of events over time. These include facilitation of linkages between the university and the diaspora, ”Guyana beyond the university “ and he noted that it is expected that the centre will undertake conferences and hold a talent databank. “One of the things we will be asking the centre to do is to manage that,” he said of the talent database of Guyanese persons.
Griffith said that one of the outcomes of the conference is a discussion of a concept paper that will advance dialogue on the centre. He said several organisations have been engaged on funding of the facility, noting that the idea presents an opportunity to UG to extend its partnerships beyond Guyana. He said that physical location of the centre has to be decided.” I’m excited about the centre”, Griffith noted.
Griffith said he anticipates, as part of the diaspora conference, that there will be structured guidance about the timeline leading to the opening of the centre, noting that the facility will be established in a phased process commencing this September.
As regards the conference, UG is looking to host at 100-150 participants at the event which will be held under the theme, “Dreaming Diaspora Engagement, Doing Diaspora Engagement.” Griffith noted that while persons may not be able to attend, the interest in participation is there. “For me participation in the conference is only a small proportion of interest,” he said.
The objectives of the conference include engagement of the diaspora in facilitating the pursuit of entrepreneurship, innovations and social and human capital opportunities. In addition, the event will be used to discuss global best practices in diaspora-engagement policies and strengthen partnerships with organisations overseas.
Griffith said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been engaged in many areas in terms of the partnership with the university in the lead-up to the conference. Dr Fitzgerald Yaw, Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives at UG, noted that the Government of Guyana is reviewing its diaspora-engagement strategy and the university plans to ask the government to launch or discuss the strategy at the conference in July. As regards the Mexican Embassy’s participation in the event, Ambassador Medel noted that he has a good relationship with the university and as such, the embassy is in conversation with the institution as regards the hosting of the event. “We are open to this very important potential area”, he said. Ambassador Medel is among a list of persons who are expected to speak at the conference.
As part of the calendar of events, President David Granger is expected to host the welcoming reception on the opening day of the event and he is also expected to deliver the keynote address the following day. Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, will also speak during the early days of the event, while several government ministers have confirmed their participation.
In addition, British Member of Parliament, David Lammy, is expected to speak during the conference, while academics, civic leaders, businesspersons and members of the diplomatic community are also expected to participate in the inaugural event. Meanwhile, the conference will see the investiture of Dr Griffith as UG’s 10th Vice-Chancellor on the last day of the event. It is the first time a VC will be officially installed as head of the university. The event’s last day will also be highlighted by a cultural extravaganza and will be organised by London –based musician Keith Waite.