Engaging Guyana’s diaspora

22 Aug


A wealth of resources, from political and economic to human capital, offered by the Guyanese diaspora serves as a boost to local development through trade, partnerships, investments and philanthropy.  In its own engagement of diaspora communities, the Government of Guyana, therefore considers the importance of enhancing both its related national policy and its preservation of individual social and cultural ties. Accordingly, the Government is extremely mindful of this crucial group to national development efforts, especially looking forward to the country’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals — Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations Resolution A/RES/70/1 of 25 September 2015).

Participants of the recent Diaspora Engagement Conference held by the University of Guyana.

Participants of the recent Diaspora Engagement Conference held by the University of Guyana. (Source: Caribbean Diaspora Centre)

Recently, focus has been placed on commencing cultural heritage activities, specifically targeted at youth, and on implementing additional efforts to harness available skills and expertise to bolster the soon to be finalised Guyana Diaspora Engagement Strategy and Action Plan.  The effort to establish sustainable relationships within the relevant communities is one of the driving forces behind the strategy. It was featured during the recently held Diaspora Engagement Conference organized by the University of Guyana last July in Georgetown.

The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge addresses members of the Guyanese diaspora in Grenada (Source: UN.IT)

The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge addresses members of the Guyanese diaspora in Grenada
(Source: DPI)

Speaking at that event on behalf of the Honourable Carl Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry’s Head of the Diaspora Unit, Mr. Michael Brotherson, outlined the Government’s approach. Noting that the majority of Guyanese resided abroad, he stated that, consequently, it had become even more necessary to define a structured policy that attended to their concerns and provided a platform for mutual communication and information sharing.

As Foreign Minister Greenidge has stressed, “The voices of these groups of Guyanese will certainly influence the future of the country.

“The Government of Guyana remains dedicated to strengthening the infrastructure that facilitates partnerships and deepens mutual commitment with the diaspora,” he said.

H.E. President David Granger engaging with members of the diaspora in Grenada. (Source: DPI)

H.E. President David Granger engaging with members of the diaspora in Grenada. (Source: DPI)

Both President David Granger and Minister Greenidge have travelled extensively to engage with diaspora communities in a number of countries, most recently in April in the United Kingdom with those keen to invest and to be otherwise engaged in their mother country. Moreover, there are several ongoing initiatives of the aforementioned strategy that focus on mobilising resources within the diaspora for the development of Guyana.

Ongoing diaspora engagement

Activities to include those in the diaspora in Guyana’s ongoing development have attracted qualified nationals to lend their service and expertise to help build capacity within various sectors. These individuals are based in diverse entities throughout the country and are keen to contribute to the further development of Guyana.

One of these persons who has returned after working and living abroad for more than 20 years said, “I have always been committed to returning to serve my native land. While at times it has been difficult as transition is not always an easy undertaking, the sense of fulfilment and joy that I have experienced as Guyana balances on the cusp of economic transformation transcends any setback or deterrent, which can be presented on both the human and general resettlement fronts.”

Speakers at the Opening Ceremony of the Go See Visits 2017, left to right: Participant in the Go See Visits 2017 Clifton McDonald; CEO of Go-Invest Owen Verwey, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, IOM Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean and Chief of Mission in Guyana Robert Natiello and Head of the Diaspora Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Michael Brotherson joined by participants of the "Go See Visits 2017"

Speakers at the Opening Ceremony of the Go See Visits 2017, left to right: Participant in the Go See Visits 2017 Clifton McDonald; CEO of Go-Invest Owen Verwey, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, IOM Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean and Chief of Mission in Guyana Robert Natiello and Head of the Diaspora Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Michael Brotherson joined by participants of the “Go See Visits 2017”

Meanwhile, key government agencies have been collaborating to improve the ease of doing business in Guyana by increasing visibility and access to local businesses. Earlier this year, in May, the Government launched its very first “Go See Visit”,  a pilot project under the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Effective and Sustainable Diaspora Engagement for Development in the Caribbean (ESDEDC). This collaborative effort between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the IOM brought 10 entrepreneurs from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to Guyana to especially explore the possibility of establishing local businesses and increasing employment opportunities in low-income communities.

Additionally, the Government continues to provide incentives to aid in the smooth transition of remigration to Guyana.

Another aspect of the diaspora strategy seeks to expand the human resources capacity at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, through the establishment of staff positions responsible for diaspora outreach and engagement, as well as at the Foreign Ministry by establishing dedicated desks in all of its overseas missions and increasing staff presence at headquarters.

While these initiatives are testimony to the Government’s commitment to ensure that the approach to diaspora affairs is holistic and the institutional framework for improved engagement is accordingly buttressed, they are by no means exhaustive. As the Diaspora Engagement Strategy and Action Plan moves towards finalisation, it remains open for comments and suggestions from Guyanese at home and abroad. The Government welcomes the feedback and will continue to engage all relevant stakeholders in the period leading up to its completion.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

August 21, 2017

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