By Frederick Halley
THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working to improve inter-agency collaboration with entities such as Go-Invest; the Ministries of Business, Public Health, and Public Security and the Guyana Revenue Authority.
According to Head of the Diaspora Unit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Michael Brotherson,“the idea is for us to further streamline mechanisms to help us deal more efficiently with activities relating to the Diaspora, such as Philanthropy; Trade and Investment; Remigration; Consular services; Tourism; Expertise; and Information sharing.
Brotherson made the disclosure during remarks at Wednesday’s Consultative meeting on Guyana’s Draft Diaspora Engagement Strategy, held at the Winter Room, Centennial College Event Centre, Scarborough, Toronto, Canada.
Brotherson told the gathering, which included Guyana’s High Commissioner to Canada, Clarissa Riehl; Acting Consular General to Toronto, Candida Daniels; the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean and Chief of Mission in Guyana, Robert Natiello; and IOM Consultant on the Draft Strategy, Arnon Matver; that in preparation for the imminent finalisation of the Strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already increased its institutional capability. “The Ministry’s Diaspora Unit has since doubled its human resources capacity to sustainably address Diaspora Affairs, ” he added.
The head of the Diaspora Unit pointed out too, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also engaging the Private Sector and Civil Society, as is necessary, “since we believe that the whole of society approach is important in our envisaged model of enhanced Diaspora engagement.
“In collaboration with the IOM, we have completed some projects, including a workshop on remittances and, more recently, a ‘Go See Visit’ which saw 10 potential investors from the Diaspora come to Guyana to explore and garner assistance for investing in small and medium enterprises in low income and vulnerable areas,” he added.
According to Brotherson, “one of the earliest efforts at enhanced Diaspora engagement has been the situational analysis and mapping exercise, which sought to identify and document relevant details about the Diaspora. We believe that in order to maximise our efforts there must exist a reliable and up-to-date database to inform our decision making.
“In this regard, the IOM has assisted with the launch of the GUYD website and related portals that provide some space for online interaction and information sharing between our overseas communities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This mechanism, though extremely useful, is still a work in progress,” he added.
Pointing out that the Diaspora engagement, though not a new phenomenon,is more and more becoming the focus of profound attention for many nations, including developing countries like Guyana, Brotherson said that the evidence-based approach to Diaspora engagement has helped to ensure that the concept is strategically factored into the economic and social development plans of nations like ours. “The available skills and expertise, the resources, the philanthropy, the investment, real and potential, and the international advocacy on behalf of country, are but a few of the incontestable and sustainable benefits that do ensue from structured Diaspora engagement.
“At the same time, however, I believe that it is extremely useful for us to see the capacity that is available in our Diaspora, not only in terms of its complementing government’s ongoing development efforts, which it does, but also, we must view our Diaspora as being inextricably bound to the Guyanese ethos, identity and the nation as a whole. This paradigm seems to suggest that the camaraderie and the convergence of purpose that must be at the heart of optimal Diaspora engagement, is firmly rooted in what we may deem, pervasive best practice,” Brotherson added.
He said he was particularly heartened by the interest of all who have chosen to participate, in response to yet another tangible effort of the Government of Guyana, to buttress its efforts to further strategically and sustainably engage the Guyanese Diaspora. “I believe today’s activity is more than ample testimony to the Government’s stated commitment to espousing the Diaspora as an integral stakeholder in the affairs and national development efforts of Guyana.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is mindful of the myriad of characteristics that permeate the Diaspora and we have always envisaged a Diaspora engagement paradigm that is both inclusive and comprehensive. We are cognisant of the Government’s stated commitment to an enhanced and structured approach to Diaspora affairs and our extended collaboration with IOM on the Strategy must not go unnoticed,” he said.
Wednesday’s event, according to Brotherson, provided another excellent opportunity for important stakeholders, to not only share the same space, exchange views, and proffer ideas. “Instead, I believe that the purpose and main goal of this activity is that of further working to enable the eventual finalisation of a Diaspora Engagement Strategy that is inclusive, sound, sustainable and underpinned by a sense of ownership by all stakeholders. Perhaps, it is apposite for me to underscore the fact that the process of the Strategy is not infinite, and this particular reality imposes, on all concerned, a responsibility to approach these concluding efforts with diligence and a desire to facilitate rather than hinder.”
High Commissioner Riehl gave the opening remarks, while Mantver presented an overview of the Interim Report, Natiello spoke on IOM’s relationship with Guyana and the Vote of Thanks was done by the acting Consular General, Daniels.