A missing link? Diaspora’s place in an enhanced international humanitarian system

03.11.2016

Under this title the Berghof Foundation co-organized a conference on the 3rd of October in the UN City in Copenhagen. It marked the final activity of Phase I of the Diaspora Emergency Action & Coordination (DEMAC) project. The conference brought together EU and international representatives from government, civil society, diaspora organizations, humanitarian organizations, and research institutes to explore and discuss opportunities and strengths related to diaspora humanitarianism. Case studies from multiple contexts and critical reflections on the overall issue of a more inclusive humanitarian system were presented during a series of keynote speeches, plenary sessions and panel discussions.

Early this year, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul highlighted the need for a more inclusive humanitarian system and innovative approaches to respond to today's complex humanitarian crisis. Building on this, the conference gave space to discuss the role of the diaspora as humanitarian actor and its relationship towards the international humanitarian system as well as to local responders. While emphasizing that the diaspora has a key role to play as a bridge between those two, the discussions also made clear that diaspora organizations should not become an additional layer in an already crowded humanitarian system. With regard to the localization of aid agenda it was stressed that due to their knowledge of the local language and culture and often pre-existing personal links to communities, diasporas are uniquely placed to partner with and support local responders. While local NGOs may be better placed to raise local people's needs and voices, the transnational diaspora is uniquely placed to understand the language of need as well as the language of aid, and thus has an important role to play in translating the voices of people in need, making them heard in the humanitarian system. At the same time the humanitarian system needs to become more inclusive as diaspora organizations encounter great difficulties accessing funds and taking part in international coordination meetings.

A report as well as a video of the conference can be found here.