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Address by Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Karl Hood on the occasion of the launch of the Diaspora Founding Conference St. George's, August 3 & 4, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011 10:02 AM

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Hon. karl HoodI am honored to be here today and to address you on the launch of the Diaspora Founding Conference here in St. George’s.

Upon assuming office in 2008 the National Democratic Congress Government took a policy decision to meaningfully and strategically engage the Diaspora in nation building.

This pragmatic and forward thinking policy shift came against the backdrop of a realization and admission that Grenadian nationals in the Diaspora do have a valuable contribution to make to the economic and social growth of their home land.

Indeed, we cannot under estimate the contribution that has already been made by our sons and daughters who live abroad. According to the Ministry of Finance, remittances from the Diaspora account for over 10% of GDP.

The experience of other developing countries in engaging their Diaspora in sustainable national development is instructive, to say the least.  Countries such as India and Singapore after recognizing the significant role that the Diaspora can play, in national development, have institutionalized the idea. Since then, they have been reaping the rewards.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this Tillman Thomas led administration places a similar value on the Grenadian Diaspora.

Moreover, the government recognizes the many modes of mobilization and support used informally by the Diaspora with regards to activities taking place in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. These channels have been used by schools, hospitals, community groups and other non profit organizations.

In an attempt to harness the tremendous development potential in these initiatives we firmly believe that an organized, structured and managed approach is necessary.

To this end an office of Diaspora affairs was created and launched in 2009.

This Office was established to handle relations and provide a framework for engagement with the Grenadian Diaspora, while liaising with Government on its development goals.

The goals of the office of Diaspora Affairs include:

  1. Facilitating partnerships between Diaspora communities and homeland communities through linkages, Coordination and active participation.
  2. Facilitating the delivery of goods and services provided by Diaspora Communities through assistance with local co-ordination, Customs and tax concessions and other services.
  3. Facilitating rural development, with a focus on youth and their struggle to find meaningful engagement and employment.
  4. Strengthen and develop platforms for cooperation between the Diaspora and Government. These platforms should use the skills, resources and experiences of nationals living abroad for training initiatives and to provide better policy formulation and solutions to some of the country’s current challenges.
  5. Ensure sustainable economic development through the encouragement and the facilitation by the Diaspora Community of investment in priority economic sectors.

In 2010, we hosted the Diaspora preparatory conference. This conference was an opportunity to initiate discussions, exchange opinions and present proposals on the way forward, we aimed to have an integrated policy of actively engaging the Diaspora in Grenada’s national development.

During the Conference, there were policy presentations by Ministers of Government addressing issues that currently pose developmental challenges to Grenada. Lively exchanges resulted and many recommendations were made.

Among them was the establishment of consultative committees in the major cities. I am happy to report that these committees have been established and have been very active over the last year. What will transpire here over the next two days will be indicative of the tremendous work that the Diaspora Consultative Committes have done since the preparatory conference.

Additionally, it was strongly felt that the youth at home and in the Diaspora MUST feature prominently, in this initiative, if we are to realize meaningful progress.

Today, I am indeed happy to see that the young people in the four major cities will be making presentations. They have a significant part to play and therefore should be involved at all levels of the discussions. Our ‘young Diaspora’ represents the link that ensures continuity and sustainability.

We all have a duty to ensure that our children are imbued with the virtues and values that have made us who and what we are. In many parts of the world young people of the Diaspora are subject to various pressures to abandon their parent’s culture and forsake their heritage and indeed are even made to feel that both are inferior. We must continue to find creative ways of developing, in them, a sense of pride in their cultural legacy without affecting their ability to develop loyalties to the countries where they live.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Grenadians in the Diaspora make up a significant part of the country’s human capital. They are making significant contributions in many cities across the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and the Caribbean where they reside, and their work should be acknowledged and promoted.

Among us here today, are many illustrious Grenadians who have risen to prestigious positions throughout the world. Your achievements are a tribute, not only to your hard work, but also to the land of your birth.

The Diaspora is recognized as a key participant in the developmental thrust of many developing states. Building and sustaining partnerships with nationals overseas is a crucial strategy to achieving goals that will be beneficial to our country.

The essential virtue and ultimate goal of placing the relations between government and the Diaspora on an organized basis is the provision of a structured and fluid mechanism, through which both parties can maintain dialogue for the purpose of communicating their respective needs, desires and interests and agreeing on a framework for achieving them.

Grenadians living abroad form an integral constituency in addressing the challenges facing our people and nation. Each of you can assist with providing fresh ideas as it relates to development policies, as promoters of community development, as educators, as financiers in developing social entrepreneurship initiatives. Many of you are waiting for the opportunity to be utilized as assets in the uplifting of your communities and creating foundations for sustainable growth and prosperity.

The launch of this initiative here today is intended to do just that.

Over the next two days you will engage in discussions and deliberate on practical and sound measures to take this process forward.  

Indeed, as we go forward there is an issue that must be addressed. The issue of the apparent tension (real or perceived) between Grenadians in the Diaspora and Grenadians at home must be looked at critically.

We must all appreciate and recognize the contribution that, every committed Grenadian makes to nation building. Grenadians in the Diaspora must not be made to feel that they are not welcomed to participate and contribute. Likewise, Grenadians at home must be respected for their efforts towards national development.

We all share the same bonds of culture, identity and nationhood. It is imperative therefore, that a concerted effort is made to adopt approaches that would facilitate a change in attitude on both sides. It is essential for us to unite and work collaboratively to advance the progress of our beloved nation. 

The challenge is ours to construct and enlarge the natural networks of relationships within the Diaspora. These relationships must strengthen our cultural linkages and build greater understanding among us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I reiterate the commitment of the Government to ensuring that this Diaspora initiative redounds to the benefit of all. In this regard, in the coming months we will ensure that the Office of Diaspora Affairs is fully staffed and run by an Ambassador of Diaspora Affairs. This Ambassador will be responsible for driving the process and establishing a focal point for all Diaspora matters.

Additionally, as a means of building on the efforts of the Diaspora Consultative Committees that were formed in the major cities leading up to this conference, I propose that these committees become permanent bodies working to support the  efforts of the Diaspora Ambassador in forming strong and sustainable networks  that would be the catalyst for the success of this initiative.

Moreover, in partnership with the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office we will endeavor to address the issues of double taxation and multiple citizenship. Every Grenadian at home and abroad must be free to participate in national development unhindered.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, its is our responsibility, as government, to create the enabling environment to facilitate members of the Grenadian Diaspora as they strive to contribute selflessly towards nation building

Ladies and Gentlemen, Love of one’s country is natural. Pride in one’s ancestry is wholesome.  One’s commitment to country is essential.

As you deliberate over the next two days I urge you to keep foremost in your minds your love for your country, the “Spice of the Caribbean”.

I Thank You


 

 

 

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