The call by the Diaspora Volunteering Alliance (DVA) has the backing of Harriet Harman, MP and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, who addressed delegates at the VSO-DVA Diaspora Volunteering Programme Annual Conference, in London, just over a week ago.
The call comes in the wake of the cutting of the Department for International Development (DFID) Diaspora Volunteering Programme (DVP), despite it being just 0.017% of DFID’s budget and being given the highest score possible for development impact in a recent DFID review.
Ms Harman said: “It is a mistake for the government to not continue to fund the Diaspora volunteering programme, which has been chopped against the rising aid budget at a time when there is increased need for Diaspora engagement and volunteering”.
Speaking at the conference entitled ‘Challenges and Opportunities: Diaspora Voices in UK and Overseas Policy’ she explored the value Diaspora volunteering has on overseas development, addressing inequality between and within countries as well as the impact it has on the volunteers themselves.
She also repeated her assertions in a letter sent to Andrew Mitchell, MP and Secretary of State, Department for International Development, and to the press.
The conference focused on the role Diaspora organisations can play in UK and global advocacy and was attended by more than 40 Diaspora organisations from across the UK.
It highlighted the success of the recently completed DFID Diaspora Volunteering Programme (DVP), a £3 million, joint three-year project with VSO, Diaspora Organisations, DFID & the BIG Lottery Fund.
The programme has been sending volunteers and building the capacity of Diaspora organisations since 2005, and has had a great impact, directly benefitting over 4000 community members, organisations and governments in 12 countries in both Africa and Asia.
The DVA have highlighted that the DVP is an example of how far a fraction of a budget could go when spent strategically.
Kunle Onabolu, DVA Chair, said: “Diaspora organisations have now proven categorically that they are capable and competent to deliver programs which have had far reaching impact on communities in Asia and Africa and have achieved targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“The work carried out by our volunteers has been at the grassroots with local groups and networks. And the skills and knowledge exchange continues far beyond the placement. “
“It is a shame that the government feels it necessary to cut funding for Diaspora volunteering which will impact lives overseas and in the UK”
In the last three years the members of DVA have not only sent over 600 volunteers to their countries but have also opened several opportunities for the Diaspora community for circular migration, investments and knowledge/ skills exchange.
The contributions by the Diaspora volunteers and their communities are examples of the new coalition government’s agenda of ‘Big Society’ and ‘citizenship’.