Diaspora actors can improve emergency effectiveness

Diaspora communities are key actors in disaster and manmade crisis response, with an ability to quickly mobilize assistance and substantially contribute to development. The World Bank estimates that remittances up to a total of USD 436 billion are sent to their countries of origin in 2014. This sum accounts for three times as much as traditional development aid.

We know that diaspora communities are becoming increasingly influential actors in humanitarian crises, often being the first to provide assistance in ways that differ from that of conventional humanitarian actors. In times of emergency, diasporas have access to first-hand information from affected population; they inject large amounts of cash support; send skilled volunteers to their countries of origin; and access areas and communities that conventional actors sometimes have difficulty accessing ,” says Onyekachi Wambu, Director of UK based AFFORD.

Even though Diasporas play a crucial role in development and humanitarian aid, there is a need for exploring to what extent coordination could be increased with the formal humanitarian system. Especially in the current context of rising numbers of humanitarian crises and the capacity of relief and aid actors to respond to those needs being stretched to the limits.

The DEMAC project seeks to address these gaps of information, to enhance mutual understanding between diaspora-led and conventional actors of emergency response, and effect better coordination.

The project is providing insight into current modalities of diaspora humanitarian interventions, creating spaces where to address identified gaps in knowledge and capacity and develop recommendations on means and methods for improved operational and strategic communication and cooperation between Diasporas and fiormal actors,” says Mingo Heiduk, Programme Coordinator for Danish Refugee Council’s Diaspora Programme.

Jointly, the three implementing organizations have extensive experience in working with Diasporas, humanitarian aid and international cooperation. Each partner is working with a specific diaspora community in their respective country: DRC with the Somali Diaspora in Denmark, AFFORD with the Sierra Leonean and Nigerian Diaspora in the UK and the Berghof Foundation with the Syrian Diaspora in Germany.

The ’Diaspora Emergency Action & Coordination’ -DEMAC project, now in its second phase is funded by the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).