Fees & Donations
Terms of Reference
Return Policy Guide
Survey of Returnees
Survey of Diaspora
Draft Policy Paper
Policy Paper Review
Introduction, Objective, Process
The Present Situation
Overseas Representation & Relationships with Nationals Abroad
Diaspora Promotional and Investment Roles
A. Letter of Endorsement from the Prime Minister
B. Terms of Reference
C. Draft Work Programme
D. Survey of Nationals Abroad (Questionnaire)
E. Survey of Returned Nationals (Questionnaire)
F. Copy of Letter to Overseas Missions
G. Response to Survey of Nationals Abroad (Tabulations)
H. Response to Survey of Returned Nationals (Tabulations)
I. Verbatim Comments from Nationals Abroad
J. Verbatim Comments from Returned Nationals
K. Submission from Dominica Association - Vancouver, B.C.
L. Draft Development Programming Concept
M. Comparison of OECS Overseas Representation(Tourism Offices)
N. Tabular Summary of Diaspora Report Recommendations
Related Reference Papers
Diaspora Committee Site
The Dominica Diaspora and the Development of Dominica
(A discussion paper presented to the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences meeting in Washington, D.C. on August 19th. 2006).
W.R. Franklin Watty (Chair)
The opinions represented in this discussion paper do not necessarily reflect the views of either the Board of Directors or the membership of DAAS. It is intended that this paper will be reviewed in summary at the above meeting and subsequently in detail by the general membership following which a decision may be made to pursue its contents in whole, in part or in some amended form
July 21, 2006.
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
The Road Forward
The preparation and submission by DAAS of the Draft Diaspora Policy Paper to Government in October 2004 was intended to mark the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship between Dominicans at home and abroad, for the accelerated development of the homeland. The paper was a draft intended for finalization by Government after meaningful public discussion. It was presented as a springboard on which the energies of the Diaspora might leap forward, and one on which a receptive Government, public and private institutions and the voluntary sector might design and implement constructive programs involving the Diaspora. To date, this hopeful harvest risks withering on the vine and urgent decisions need to be made on how the promising prospects advanced in the Draft might yet be salvaged.
Why the Inaction?
One can only speculate as to the reasons why this initiative undertaken at the urgent request of Government has met with such a cool reception. This may be a foolhardy exercise, yet do so we must since such explanations might inform us as to how to proceed.
(a) Government has been preoccupied with other matters deemed more relevant, useful and urgent and over the intervening two years has been unable to attend to this issue;
(b) Those officials tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and evaluating the Draft are unable to understand or appreciate its contents and implications for the development of the homeland, or are less than fully committed to a meaningful involvement of the Diaspora in the development process;
(c) Recent elections in Dominica in which elements of the Diaspora are alleged to have participated and are reputed to have played a decisive part in the out come have engendered a note of caution in how this initiative might proceed;
(d) The Diaspora may be perceived as a useful source of development funding and investment sourcing without the need, bother or obligations of a more formal relationship.
Whatever the reasons, the fact is that during this over-extended period of deafening silence while waiting for an “official response” from Government, much of the early enthusiasm and anticipation which marked the widespread participation of the Diaspora in the preparation of the Draft may be dissipating and disillusionment with the motives and sincerity of Government may understandably be setting in.
In the interval, DAAS has continued to promote, advise, assist and further its aims through a variety of projects, agencies, events and contributions to public discussion
on topical issues and remains ready to contribute in any way that it can to the progress of the homeland and the well-being of its people – our friends, relatives and fellow nationals.
Matters un-resolved do not disappear over time but are compounded and reappear in other guises. The challenges continue, and DAAS needs to come to some determination on how to now proceed in marshalling the Diaspora as a whole as an agent of change, development and growth in Dominica. This task is even more urgent as other Caribbean jurisdictions which had lagged behind us in this program of cementing Diaspora relations and may even have learnt from us, now appear to have passed us by.
These jurisdictions have put in place meaningful frameworks for Diaspora participation; have designed well-thought out programs for investment by nationals overseas; have involved the Diaspora community in drafting local development programs; they have relaxed restrictions and disincentives against the return of nationals; they are investigating with their overseas nationals ways and means by which the Diaspora can publicize and promote the homeland in the metropolitan centres in which they live; and, they are even contemplating how the political influence of the Diaspora might be co-opted to generate more favourable policies towards the homeland. In all of this, Dominica appears not to need or care for such initiatives.
It should be further realised that facilities are now being put in place to permit qualified and skilled Caribbean nationals to live, work and invest in various subscribing jurisdictions other than their home islands. There is now a real possibility that unless Dominica takes a progressive, pro-active and enlightened approach towards its Diaspora, the reverse “brain drain” will not accrue to its benefit. One cannot rely simply on emotional bonds to lure nationals back to the homeland. In this age of globalization, issues of comparative opportunity, accessibility and security are more influential in determining movements of populations, and one has only to look at current trends occurring in the Caribbean, including Dominica.
A companion paper that specifically examines the role, organization and operations of DAAS is proposed for presentation and discussion at this conference. I will therefore defer to that presentation which I believe will provide adequate opportunity for that exercise of reflection, introspection, analysis and prognosis. For the present, it is sufficient to observe that the objectives of DAAS as stated in Article 11 (A-F) of the Bylaws include an extensive range of activities which currently belie the resources, finances and even the resolve of the present membership as constituted to deliver. These include: Charitable works; Cultural exchanges; Education and promotion; Database construction, maintenance and management; Problem solving; and, Development planning.
This is an intimidating list which becomes even more so without a prioritization of the importance of each. Full credit to the current and past leadership of DAAS which despite this difficulty has laboured assiduously and without sufficient recognition to give life and meaning to these objectives. But interpretations, significance and priorities among leaders differ, and the opportunities pursued should not be related to the interests of individuals. Having said so, one is then faced with the dilemna of determining how issues and objectives can be prioritised without the available financing to implement them. We are thus left with the spectacle of doing just what we are able to do out of our personal interest and financial capacity, notwithstanding what circumstances at home might logically require. For any organization, that is not good enough!
Secondly, in attempting to cover the waterfront on a slender budget, there is the risk of unfulfilled expectations in spreading oneself too thin to accomplish much, and rapid burnout due to frustration. Individual officers of the organization have sacrificed much and while that may be tolerable in the teething years of the DAAS organization, it is time to start planning for the next growing and maturing phases, for leadership renewal and replacement. These issues are all implicated in the inter-related matters of membership, sharing of responsibilities, funding and financing, program development scheduling and phasing, efficiency and effectiveness.
DAAS and the Diaspora.
Despite the wide-ranging scope of its activities, DAAS is but one (albeit international) among several other organizations (typically metropolitan based), all of whom have a long and distinguished history and tradition of assistance and support to Dominica. DAAS would do well to respect this record of achievement, assist their reputation, role and efforts and utilize them as building blocks in reaching out to the wider Diaspora. Reasonably and understandably, many of DAAS members are also members of the national associations in such places as New York, Washington, Miami, Toronto, London, Montreal, Vancouver, St. Lucia and Barbados and are able to act as liaison back and forth. But the programs of DAAS must have meaning, significance and relevance to these organizations otherwise there is no reason for a closer working arrangement of them with DAAS.
There are also thousands of Dominicans resident abroad who do not belong to a national organization either because one does not exist or because they do not see any benefit in so doing. Such persons typically contribute to deserving causes at home, especially in the wake of some natural or human disaster. In some cases, their interests may be program, area or subject specific such as a sporting event, a village or re-building of a church. These, too, have validity and cannot be discounted. DAAS has an obligation to reach out to these groups also, and to enlist them in the national development effort. These are folks who privately and regularly remit funds to family and purchase property and build homes in anticipation of a return to Dominica. These are the folks who unfortunately have been exposed to discrimination, isolation and confrontation in their efforts to resettle. These are the folks on whose behalf DAAS should relentlessly campaign.
Like all Diaspora members, they have shared issues of health cost coverage, appropriate medical care, double taxation on pensions, obstacles in the importation of personal necessities. They face problems in re-adapting to their homelands and re-involvement in the social and economic life of the homeland. They provide an underutilized source of volunteers and require a pipeline to the authorities to address their unique problems.
Whether or not emigrant Dominican parents become involved in national groups overseas, as their offspring gain education, training and skills, it is critical that the emotional and historic ties to Dominica be nurtured and maintained. Otherwise, those links will be weakened and lost by the time that they enter the workforce, and a continuing resource is lost to Dominica. Other national Diasporas consciously nurture those national and cultural roots by regular visits to the homeland, extending in some cases to temporary schooling in the ancestral home. Such arrangements in the form of cultural exchanges are the stuff of which DAAS’s legitimacy is made!!
Finally, there are Diaspora members who exist entirely outside any organized grouping, who have personal and individual family links through occasional visits back and forth, who maintain associations on a limited social visit basis between family and friends and who, if and when they meet, do so on a small group social/recreational basis such as membership in clubs and on sports teams.
DAAS would do well under its mandates of education, promotion etc to aggressively seek to foster and organize in centres where the numbers and interests warrant, the formation of national organizations with self-serving traditional objectives and with a coordinated development interest in Dominica nurtured by DAAS. In these new areas, as well as in areas where such organizations already exist, DAAS could work with these groups to further their services to their membership, to expose them to new opportunities for education, health care, home ownership, planned retirement, legal protection and such, so as to improve their quality of life in the hostland along with benefits obtainable on return home.
In order to accomplish much of the above objectives which will be contingent or personal knowledge and trusting relationships, continuing availability of DAAS members as resource persons. In order to make the case for benefits and opportunities which are specific to the country and even the city in which these groups are located, a strong case can be made for the re-formation of DAAS as an international organization with one or more local chapters in various countries.
The Bylaws of DAAS already provide for the establishment of Chapters within the organization (Article V11, Sections 1, X1V). National or area chapters (in addition to DAAS “International”) would serve the following purposes:
(a) Transmitting national and area issues affecting local DAAS operations to DAAS International and in turn passing along matters of concern to local membership and affiliate groups;
(b) Assisting in the formation and operation of national associations with the ability to recruit their membership to assist in DAAS projects such as hosting visiting cultural exchanges, staffing promotions and exhibitions;
(c) Identifying and directing DAAS to available human, material and financial resources and networks which might be available for use in the national development effort;
(d) Making public the work and efforts of DAAS to local groups, agencies, governments, universities and research institutions, newspapers and television;
(e) Actual recruitment of suitable persons for membership in DAAS and a more effective involvement of members in the duties, activities and responsibilities of membership, including fundraising and payment of dues;
(f) Hosting of DAAS meeting on a Chapter basis, combined with fundraising events.
DAAS and Government.
Ideally, the objectives of DAAS are best realised as it attempts to work hand-in-hand with Government. Yet, despite several overtures, that cooperation has been slow in coming. While some suspicion, misapprehension and even opposition among timid bureaucrats might have been expected, general policy pronouncements have not yet been translated into directives, still less into active programs.
(a) While a Ministry for Nationals Overseas has been established in name, there is still no effective desk staffed and programmed by designated individuals that might serve as a functioning contact point for DAAS or Dominican nationals overseas;
(b) There is still confusion and frustration in the administration of the policy programs and regulations for resettlement of returning nationals;
(c) While there have been considerable improvements in the sharing of information via Government Press Releases, including announcements on contract vacancies in the public service, announcements on major contracts (studies, infra-structural works etc) are still not regularly shared with the Diaspora.
There is a limit to how many complaints and reminders one can make to an official before resentment sets in and an aversion develops to the complainer who rightly or wrongly is viewed as a nuisance or an obstructionist. In order to avoid such an eventuality in contacts between DAAS and Government (ministers as well as public servants), one might suggest a “modus operandi” such as:
(a) One (1) Diaspora conference to be held in Dominica every two (2) years attended by government ministers and senior public servants (depending on issues), to identify, discuss and report on related activities, programs and policy directions, with opportunities for public attendance and participation.
(b) One (1) meeting of DAAS per year with Cabinet to be informed of Government programming proposals (immediately prior to or following the tabling of the Budget), the role of the Diaspora in furthering these objectives and to receive feedback;
(c) Scheduling of an annual meeting with selective senior officials on matters within their mandates which will address specific programs affecting the Diaspora, program objectives, performance targets and effectiveness. (Who, what, when, how well).
In the event that the proposal such as that outlined above is not endorsed, DAAS should give consideration to an OPTION B that recognises difficulty in obtaining Government’s participation. In such a circumstance, one should strive for Government’s endorsement, if possible; but not necessarily Government’s endorsement, if unattainable.
(a) Registration of DAAS as a charitable, not-for-profit, non-political entity in Dominica;
(b) Urgent establishment in Dominica of a visible DAAS presence including an office, skeleton staff, document repository and research library, computer facilities and a public relations capability;
(c) Independently convening an annual conference on Dominica – Diaspora matters which should be open to the press and the public;
(d) Participating in conferences, workshops called by reputable non-political bodies as resource persons with acknowledged professional capability;
(e) Aggressive, widespread enlistment and involvement of Dominicans in the Diaspora and communication of issues of concern to them;
(f) Preparation and adherence to a public Memorandum of Understanding for working with and through private sector entities in Dominica.
(g) Preparation of a Quarterly Bulletin of summaries of professionally prepared studies on Dominica and development of a tape library on national and public events on Dominica for distribution within the Diaspora.
Regardless of whether or not DAAS chooses to adopt the Preferred Option or Option “B”, it is critical that it addresses the following issues:
(a) Expansion of membership in all areas and development of a Chapter format so as to delegate responsibilities to each Chapter, as appropriate and secure the widest participation of membership in the affairs of the organization. Particular emphasis should be given to recently retired professionals and skilled technicians;
(b) In addition to a data base on individuals DAAS should endeavour to create and maintain a database on programs, resource individuals, centres of excellence related to problems of developing countries and small island states, in particular;
(c) Expand its contact and foster establishment of national associations in major metropolitan centres (including Caribbean island locations) as numbers and interest allow, including dissemination of information on activities, issues and concerns in Dominica affecting the Diaspora;
(d) Create and maintain a more visible and vocal Dominica local Chapter;
(e) Seek out greater sources of funding, including: membership dues; affiliate subscription fees; corporate donations (tax deductible); foundation grants;
(f) Clarify and define policies pertaining to programs according to type: operations and administration; charitable programs; studies; research and development (investment opportunities, research and development, operational feasibility, market viability, income/employment/revenue spin-offs).
(g) Program and project scheduling by short (1 year), medium term (1-5 years), and long term (beyond 5 years), with deliverables, completion dates, cost and revenues breakdowns and supervisory staff/researcher). The idea here is to take a project from conceptualization through to market in conjunction with local counterpart staff who would commercialize the product after reimburse DAAS on a cost-recovery basis.
The exercise undertaken in the preparation of the Draft Diaspora policy paper including the completed questionnaires by nationals overseas in every walk of life gives great assurance that there still remains a strong bond of kinship and nostalgia with Dominicans at home. This is strengthened by an active interest and concern in contributing to the island’s progress. As individual expressions, such feelings, contributions and actions have reduced effectiveness and impact. DAAS could potentially co-ordinate these scattered elements into a focussed, planned and accountable program. But to do so, we must first set our house in order.
Together, if we aspire; together, we will achieve.
Chair, Diaspora Relations Committee.