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During the Virtual Webinar held on June 8, 2022, titled “Transforming Guyana,” sponsored by
the Guyana Business Journal and the Caribbean Policy Consortium, it was stated that technical
problems and locating suitably qualified Guyanese to manage a proposed website were the
reasons contributing to the delay in the moving forward of the Diaspora engagement process.
However, post-webinar comments suggested that perhaps the delay was due to more substantive
and political reasons.
Despite such revealing explanations, it was gratifying to learn that the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs welcomes ideas from the diaspora. It was also emphatically announced that there has
been no evidence of discrimination or rejection of project proposals submitted by the Diaspora.
Further, the Diaspora Unit seeks to expand and improve services through the various Consulates.
Nonetheless, there has not been a full disclosure about what exactly has been agreed upon. This
article briefly revisits the tension issue and highlights the reported constraints and efforts to
institutionalize a long-anticipated Diaspora Engagement Policy and Strategy.
A point of view often ignored is that one cannot think about a single Diaspora. To do so would
be to miss the core dimensions and persistence of the tensions within the diaspora and between
the Diaspora and the home country. We also need to understand how frustrations, which
inadvertently cause a lingering barrier to communication and collaboration, lead to tension and
vice versa. Repeated experiences of bureaucratic bottleneck and unfulfilled partnership promises
related to Diaspora-initiated projects may lead to distrust, dampened confidence, and compassion
fatigue. Engagement must consider the needs, experiences, perceptions, traditions, and resources
of diverse hometown communities and the bona fide standing of contributing diaspora
At the same time, we must not lose sight of the complexities of community and ethnic relations.
Nor should we underestimate the depth of emotional and economical attachment to one’s home
country. Migration Expert Dr. Manuel Orozco reported that Guyanese in the diaspora are among
the leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean who sustain bank accounts in their home country.
Such practices are relevant, particularly as socioeconomic transformation in Guyana is
anticipated. The large number of community development projects sponsored and funded by the
more than 400 Hometown Associations is testimony to the commitment of these organizations’
membership. Whether certain transnational activities by the diaspora remain relevant is yet to be
seen. Would Diaspora Philanthropic activity and hometown bank savings subside? Will the
sending of remittances decrease? If so, will this exacerbate tense relationships? Is it possible or
necessary to listen to all the different groups? How can all stakeholders be heard? These seem to
be timely issues of inquiry. The government's capacity to respond expeditiously to such
questions is a reasonable concern.
One of the Webinar participants concluded that Guyana is in serious trouble, and there is no
evidence that the current leadership can address the intellectual deficits that have emerged in
shaping policy or developing the capacity to create a strategy to move the country out of the
doldrums. Advocating with equal passion for the participation of ordinary citizens, local
communities, and the Diaspora in helping to realign social institutions would be helpful at this
time. Not only can the diaspora become a growing source of investors for Guyana, but also a
bridge to global economic reach beyond the regional CARICOM connection.
The recent launching of a Guyanese Diaspora Digest seems well-intended. However, the
primary focus appears to be showcasing development projects in Guyana and minimally on
building broad, constructive alliances for effective Diaspora engagement. Nonetheless, a report
about the appointment of an Advisor on Investment and Diaspora Affairs at the Guyana
Consulate in New York is encouraging. All Embassies and Consulates should do more to provide
resources to help Guyanese across the diasporas strengthen confidence in and connections with
the home country. Besides providing routine information on immigration matters, Consulates
should play a leading role in helping streamline the diasporas’ contribution to nation-building.
This can be accomplished through mapping, i.e., quantifying and reporting the features, skills,
interests, socio-cultural characteristics, and other resources of individuals and organizations in
the diaspora. The hope is that such a plan is forthcoming and will be executed securely and
Understanding the causes, effects and possible solutions to reciprocal tension is essential. The
intent is not to blame or cast aspersions but recognize the importance of both internal socio-
cultural structures and external contexts – how they intersect and the possibilities that collective
effort brings to national development. Understanding the interconnections and attributes of the
government, members of the diaspora, and local communities are instrumental in this process.
While social analysts warn about the prerequisite need to end tension vis a vis ethnic and
political divisiveness, the Center for Caribbean Diaspora Report views diasporas as a defining
constituency for development that will become more decisive in the future. There should be
some oversight of voluntary diaspora organizations for accountability, sustainability, and
integrity. Having confidence in the functioning and competence of local institutions is also
The government must not only talk about interest in the diaspora but is expected to expeditiously
implement feasible policy and engagement strategies that have been missing. Some diaspora
organizations have reported fewer challenges working directly with their target home
communities than with the government as a mediating institution. The diaspora, civil society, and
government must acknowledge the areas of disconnect and adopt coping mechanisms to enhance
a common goal of sustainable development. Diaspora advocacy groups tend to be either
supportive or critical of the home country's government. In light of the concerns continuously
and passionately expressed, an umbrella non-partisan Diaspora Organizing Group should be
formed to represent the interests and concerns of the diaspora, regardless of ethnic identity,
education, socio-economic status, or political affiliation. This would enhance the coordination of
services and minimize fragmentation and competition, adding to a systematic engagement
process. It will also provide an opportunity to be more inclusive, engaging diverse groups,
seeking to coordinate the collective interventions of individuals and multiple organizations. The
opportunity to form partnerships and share interests and development concerns will be at the
forefront of such a model.
Building trust and mobilizing stakeholders are core elements of Diaspora engagement. This
requires well-planned implementation of an institutional framework at the national level to
communicate with their Diasporas, coordinate policies, and provide support for follow-up on
engagement. Formulating a new paradigm in which diaspora organizations appeal more to the
younger generation would be helpful. They can help manage a Web-Based system and
confidently identify with a progressive path of nation-building. Ultimately, the Guyanese
populace should not be bystanders at home or abroad but hold elected officials to their sworn
responsibilities. Collaboration among civil society, the private sector, and the government could
be the hallmark for dealing effectively with emerging national and regional challenges and
reimagining a nation where transparency, accountability, empathy, and trust are at the core of
governance civil societal relationships a dream yet to be realized.
As the nation continues to claw its way out of a climate of mistrust and tension, the hope is to
mold a new generation by the determination to exorcise the ghosts of ethnic, political, and
transnational schism. The youth must be empowered with a clear vision and equipped to work
toward a more socially just and tension-free society to ensure meaningful social and economic
transformation. Ultimately, what would a more inclusive vision entail? Guyanese Professor Dr.
Vibert Cambridge believes that the people of Guyana need ideas of what a caring and just society
can be. Emphasis should be on collective capacity-building and coherent policy implementation.
It should not be motivated by politics or prioritizing one group over another but by intelligent
management of natural resources and a balanced and just societal transformation.
Ideas for a mutually beneficial diaspora policy and engagement framework can be gleaned from
the National Diaspora Policy of Jamaica. That plan outlines a comprehensive framework and
guide. It seeks to harness the resources of the Diaspora to ensure that those at home and abroad
are empowered and to promote diaspora research, human capital exchanges, well-being, safety,
and efforts to integrate the diaspora. Such a framework offers a multidimensional plan for
favorable interaction between the diaspora and home with regional relevance. To maintain a
good diaspora engagement strategy is to facilitate the ways the diaspora can bring benefits to the
home country. This includes opportunities for replacing the infamous brain drain with brain
Understanding the dynamics of these phenomena and developing an action plan to mitigate
negative interactions are critical to the value and mechanics of Diaspora Engagement. Otherwise,
the potential and potency of the relationship at this crucial time in the nation’s history will not be
fully realized. Notwithstanding the post-pandemic challenges in both geographic locations, it is
essential to explore the behaviors, practices, and policies that worsen this binary tension and
formulate strategies to deescalate them. The goal is to identify the sources of frustrations and
uncertainty, how they are manifested, and strategize possible solutions. The hope is that Guyana
charts its history collectively.
In a recently announced plan to establish a One Guyana Commission, the government pledged a
contract of inclusion which promises to build an environment of trust to give voice to all social
groups, including the diaspora, regardless of political affiliation, race, religion, promoting social
harmony, tolerance, understanding, and respect for cultural diversity. Could this become a
reality? The complexities and depth of attachment to the home country and the existence of
smoldering resentments mean that bridges are not so quickly built. With measured optimism, it
is expected that a protracted Diaspora Engagement Strategy will soon be available, and the
diaspora will have an opportunity to review and comment on it before it is implemented.
Reaffirmed by commitment and inclusivity, this will be mutually beneficial to Guyanese at home
and abroad. However, to secure the confidence of the diaspora, the Comprehensive Diaspora
Engagement Strategy Report, which was prepared for the Government of Guyana by the
International Organization for Migration and any other data about the diaspora, should be made
available to the public.