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Diaspora groups in peace processes: lessons learned and potential for engagement by the EU

29 May 2012

In the framework of the Observatoire de l’Afrique, the EUISS, in collaboration with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), organised an Africa Briefing on 29 May 2012 to debate the involvement of African diaspora in peace processes and the prospects of a clear agenda emerging on this topic within the EU. Rough estimations indicate that in Europe, diaspora groups from Sub-Saharan Africa may comprise of between 3.5 and 8 million people. Multiple senses of ‘belonging’ and plurality of identities mean these individuals are uniquely placed to foster connections between their ‘home’ and ‘host’ countries. By channelling new ideas and voices, they may be able to effectively contribute to policy and political developments in their countries of origin. Diasporas therefore seem to be a relevant force with potential positive impacts, despite a certain tendency among experts to interpret their role in homeland conflicts as negative. At an EU level, there is still a certain scepticism regarding the suitability (and feasibility) of engaging diasporas as partners, in particular in the field of peace and security. Gathering experts, policy makers, researchers and representatives from civil society this Africa Briefing provided a platform to discuss some of the key questions of this emerging field, in particular: how can African diasporas promote peace in their countries of origin? And how can the European Union engage diasporas as part of its strategy in the field of peace and security in the region? The event opened with a presentation of Judith Vorrath’s forthcoming EUISS Occasional Paper ‘Engaging African Diasporas for Peace: corner stones for an emerging EU agenda’, in which the author pinpoints the potentials and limitations of diasporas, as well as the options for the EU to engage them in peace processes. The presentation of the paper was followed by a panel discussion, including contributions from Dr. Awil Mohamoud, (Director, African Diaspora Policy Centre), Jeremy Lester (Head of Division, Horn of Africa, East and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean, EEAS) and Norunn Grande (Special Advisor, Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue).