Peacebuilding organisation International Alert yesterday published a new report, Voices across borders, which calls for greater engagement between the UK government and diaspora communities, in order to improve peace and development.
The research, which was undertaken in partnership with community-based organisations Centre for Good Relations, Community Accord, Community Resolve, Conflict & Change and University of the West of England, explores the connections between the lives of diasporas in the UK and conflict in their countries of origin. Based on focus group discussions and interviews with members of the Congolese, Pakistani, Somali and Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora communities in the UK, as well as desk officers in the European Union and UK governments, the research not only demonstrates the immediacy of impact that events in the country of origin have on life in the UK for diaspora communities, but also highlights the lines of influence and interaction between these communities and the country of origin.
The report was launched at an event at the House of Commons, chaired by Lord McConnell and organised in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, which brought together politicians, civil society organisations and diaspora community members to discuss the findings of the research.
Commenting on the report, Lord McConnell stated:
“This report highlights the need for both Government and diasporas to do more to improve how they engage with each other. Policymakers within government need to understand the positive contributions that diaspora communities could play in how the UK supports peace in countries suffering war and conflict. At the same time, diaspora communities in some cases need to understand more about how the decision making process works in the UK and represent diverse views where they exist.”
Reflecting on the event, International Alert’s Director of Emerging Programmes Phil Champain said:
“There is a fear among diaspora communities that the government is sometimes paying lip service to their needs, and views them as a security threat rather than collaborators. The research and discussions yesterday evening have shown that there is a willingness to work on how diaspora communities and the UK government can engage so that suspicions about the UK government’s motives in many countries can be reduced amongst diasporas and peace efforts strengthened.''
One of the participants commented:
“Any migrant, any refugee, any asylum seeker is divided between the old land and the new land. Conflict happening in Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Congo is definitely affecting us here.”
Seeking to compare the experiences of different diaspora communities in the UK, the research demonstrates how being able to both understand and engage with the complexity of the diaspora experience is key to maximising the opportunities evident in building processes for better peace practice overseas. To this end, the report makes a set of recommendations to both policymakers and diaspora members on how to improve partnerships on peacebuilding and development policy and practice.