Welcome to the blog about
Consular and Public Diplomacies
Consular and Public Diplomacies
Diaspora Diplomacy is a term, like Consular Diplomacy, that has surfaced in recent times. But, what is it?
1. Diaspora, Diplomacy or international public policy?
The first obstacle that I see of using the term is whether diplomatic activities can target the States´ own citizens? While some Diaspora members, particularly after the second generation, are nationals of the host State, in many cases, they are allowed to have dual nationality; therefore, technically, these persons are foreign nationals while at the same time that are citizens of the sending State.
In other cases, the only nationality is from its home country, and many lack immigration status in the receiving State, making them particularly vulnerable to abuse and face difficulties to successfully integrate to the host society.
So, technically speaking (strictly application of the term), the only Diaspora Diplomacy applies towards citizens of the receiving country with some heritage from the sending State. It could not be used for dual citizens and home-country nationals. They could be part of the engagement policies of the State but could not be called Diplomacy.
However, for a country separating these three categories is very difficult, mainly because, in most cases, the persons themselves do not see this strict categorization, and there are many overlaps. Notwithstanding, some governments do have different initiatives targeting distinct groups of members of the diasporic community living abroad.
In the book 21st Century Diplomacy: A practitioner's Guide, written by Amb. Kishan S. Rana, a former ambassador of India and current Professor Emeritus at the DiploFoundation, the author includes a chapter on Diaspora Diplomacy.
While brief, yet substantive chapter, Amb. Kisha highlights some critical aspects of Diaspora Diplomacy while identifying a few prominent countries, such as Israel, India, Kenya, and Mexico.
2. Diasporas and migration.
Because diaspora issues result from migration, it is significant to understand how the original diaspora community (or first-generation) left the sending State.
It is very different from having a community abroad due to war from the creation of a new State, as is the case of Israel. Slaves and indentured workers did not have a say in any part of the process, and in many cases, with some exceptions, there is no way to know where they originated. So there is no Diaspora if there is no country of origin. Besides, “Diasporas are not simply immigrants but rather immigrants who retain an emotional bond with their country of origin.”[i]
As Amb. Kishan describes the sources of origin of the diaspora by just following the migration flows in the last centuries.[ii] He identifies nine profiles that go from European migration during colonial times to current international students not returning to their home countries after graduation.[iii] I like the fact that the Ambassador not just discussed North-South migration but also mentioned South-South flows and intra-North movements, such as the intra-European Union mobility.
In the not-so-distanced-past, most migration movements tended to be permanent, particularly when there were war and violence, specific groups suffered discrimination. With the advent of faster, cheaper transportation and communications, migrants move in large numbers due to economic difficulties. In some instances, such as India after 2000 and Mexico since the depression of 2008-2009, there have been some returns, voluntary or forced.
In Mexico's case, because of the geographic closeness, during most of the 20 century, migration to the United States has been seen as temporary, in contrast to other communities. With the end of circularity in the late 1990s, most Mexican migrants brought their families north. However, as a surge in enforcement operations, many deported persons were accompanied back to Mexico by the U.S. citizen kids and other family members, expanding the already substantial U.S. diaspora in Mexico.
3. Diasporas and foreign policy.
Amb. Kishan identifies that the issues of diasporas “is a hazy area, lacking in either norms or established practices.”[iv] This is true at the international level as well as domestically in many countries.
As mentioned before, the diaspora community's duality is seen as an advantage for both the host and home countries. But there is a considerable disparity in the levels of collaboration and/or conflict between the home and host state and the diaspora.
It is relevant to acknowledge that “the role that a diaspora plays in the country of its adoption is a function of the opportunities that are available to migrant communities…”[v] Therefore, the more significant is the diaspora to the home country is when they manage to attain some power in the host country.
In terms of foreign policy, the power gained could be in the policy, economic, and even cultural fields. Once this is achieved, the home country most likely will be interested in engaging in more strategic and profound ways to gain some traction in its foreign policy goals, hopefully. One can always think of Israel as a great example.
However, there are times that the situation works the other way around. When the diaspora gains powerful positions in the host country, it could use this power to change the receiving State´s foreign policy, affecting the bilateral relations. One example could be the Cuban community in southern Florida and the relationship with the Castro regime.
While not so many countries try to influence the diaspora´s host country foreign policy towards it, most governments try to leverage their overseas communities to promote economic development.
Remittances can be a substantial source of foreign currency and income for left-behind family members. Nostalgic tourism, greater trade opportunities, and the possibility of investment by successful immigrants are other avenues to support progress of the sending country by diasporic communities.
4. Diaspora Diplomacy.
Back in 2011, when Amb. Kishan published the book; he refers that “one does not encounter much specialist writing on the theme of diaspora diplomacy…though the subject receives increasing attention in the media.”[vi] Nowadays, there are more scholars and practitioners in different countries that are writing about this issue.
I think that Diaspora Diplomacy is another instrument of the Public Diplomacy toolbox because its essence is engaging with audiences (foreign and/or domestic) who live overseas that have a special bond. Of course, it can also be part of regular Diplomacy when diaspora members work as authorities in the host country´s government.
After looking for a definition of Diaspora Diplomacy, something that I thought would be easy but turned out to be quite complicated, I found one, but I am not convinced about it.
According to Joaquin Gonzales III, Diaspora Diplomacy is “A collective action that is driven, directed, and sustained by the energy and charisma of a broad range of migrants who influence another country´s culture, politics, and economics in a manner that is mutually beneficial for the homeland and the new home base.”[vii]
I find this definition troublesome because it does not include the government's role and its foreign policy goals. Therefore, it is hard to call it Diplomacy, in its traditional concept. For me, Diaspora Diplomacy is a government´s engagement with diasporic communities to achieve a foreign policy goal that could be as broad as a tool for economic development, generation of soft power to influence some decisions of the host country´s government. In this regard, according to Yunus Emre Ok, the “primary objective [of the Diaspora Diplomacy] is to generate loyalty towards the home country and ultimately converted into political influence…”[viii]
One reason why defining Diaspora Diplomacy is so tricky is because there is an enormous array of ways that it could be instrumented. One method to visualize this variety is via the analysis of the rise of diaspora institutions, like the study of Alan Gamlen, Michel E. Cummings, and Paul M. Vaaler titled “Explaining the rise of diaspora institutions” or evaluating the policies focused on diasporas, as the issue in brief titled “Engaging the Asian Diaspora”.
Last but not least, there is even a handbook for “Developing a Road Map for Engaging Diasporas in Development.” So, the field, quoting Amb. Kishan still is a “hazy area.”
5. Digitalization of Diaspora Diplomacy: balancing opposing tendencies.
Diaspora Diplomacy has also experienced changes as a result of the digital revolution. Ilan Manor, author of a blog about Digital Diplomacy, in The Contradictory trends of Digital Diaspora Diplomacy,” expertly explains these opposing tendencies, that bring opportunities at the same challenges for governments and diasporic communities alike.
He indicates that “while nations can use digital platforms to engage with diasporic communities, such communities may also self-organize thus marginalizing diplomats.” [ix]
Manor identifies five main contradictory trends that affect diasporas and the government´s diplomatic efforts toward them:
I strongly suggest reading this working paper, as it clearly explains each of these opposing tendencies and the implications for engaging efforts of the ministries of foreign affairs.
The participation of diasporas in international affairs is not new. However, the digital revolution, together with cheaper and faster modes of transportation, has increased the interest of the government in engaging with them as part of their overall foreign policy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has “created a worldwide crisis of immobility as intentional borders closed [and] as a result, the governance of international migration is likely to change substantially, in ways comparable to or even greater than the changes that came about after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”[xi] This, in turn, will heavily affect the lives of diasporic communities in host states and their families that depend on them in their homelands.
Diaspora Diplomacy is a field that needs more analysis, particularly in the framework of Public Diplomacy and the banishing border between domestic affairs and foreign policy. It could also be examined under the perspective of Foreign Policy Analysis.
[i] Manor, Ilan, “The Contradictory trends of Digital Diaspora Diplomacy”, Working Paper #2 Exploring Digital Diplomacy, October 2017, p. 3.
[ii] Rana, Kishan S., 21st Century Diplomacy: A practitioners Guide, 2011, p. 96.
[iii] Kishan, 2011, pp. 96-99.
[iv] Kishan, 2011, p. 95.
[v] Kishan, 2011, p. 103.
[vi] Kishan, 2011, p. 94.
[vii] Cited in Jovenir, Christelle M., “Diaspora Diplomacy: Functions, Duties, and Challenges of an Ambassador”, June 2013, p. 7. Joaquin Gonzales III, Diaspora Diplomacy: Philippine Migration and its Soft Power Influence, Minneapolis, Mill City Press, 2012.
[viii] Emre Ok, Yunus, “”Diaspora-Diplomacy” as a Foreign Policy Strategy” in Diplomatisches Magazin, November 20, 2018.
[ix] Manor, 2017, p. 2.
[x] Manor, 2017, pp. 5-9.
[xi] Newland, Kathleen, “Will International Migration Governance Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic?”, Policy Brief, Migration Policy Institute and German Cooperation, October 2020, p. 1.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.