Western Balkans Migration Network (further WB-MIGNET), organized the First Regional Winter School “Diaspora for Local Development”, held in Belgrade, Serbia in period of 10 – 11 December 2019 at ENVOY Conference Center. This innovative Winter School aims to involve experts and practitioners from the Western Balkans to establish connections, exchange knowledge and learn from the others best practices of diaspora involvement in local development. The main objective of the School is to expand knowledge about theories and methodologies for the analysis of (e)migration and diaspora from the Western Balkans, Southeast Europe and the world at large.
Besides researchers who presented their current research, representatives of many government institutions and international organizations, such as UNDP BiH, BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, KIRS, Ministry of Diaspora Kosovo, Ministry of State for Diaspora of Albania and Development Fund for the Diaspora of the Republic of Albania also participated actively at the conference. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) financially supported participants from Albania and Kosovo and “Diaspora for Development (D4D)”, a project of BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees and Government of Switzerland in partnership with UNDP BiH i IOM BiH participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the support of the Diaspora Development Project (D4D), a project of the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees and the Government of Switzerland, in partnership with UNDP BiH and IOM BiH, representatives of the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, municipalities, cities and cantonal authorities participated.
It is envisaged as a combination of lectures and workshops, as well as best practices towards enabling diaspora engagement in which diaspora potential can translate into actual outcomes. It is designed as a two-day school with a series of lectures by distinguished speakers, interactive workshops, engaging debates and round tables, but also with enough time set aside for getting to know each other, to network with professionals and for discussing common future projects and initiatives. The main desirable outcomes of the Winter School are:
- To raise awareness about the positive role and contributions of diaspora and migrants towards development in their countries of origin and residence, in particular related to local economic development and job creation;
- To enhance the engagement in development through the exchange of knowledge and expertise;
- To showcase examples of engaging diaspora into migration development nexus;
- To gather and share tools and resources that can be replicated and adapted in other contexts to effectively make an impact in these areas;
- To facilitate collaboration between practitioners and researchers in order to learn about creative solutions that address local economic growth by engaging diaspora;
- To establish a mechanism that allows practitioners and researchers to network beyond their local communities; understanding best practices and potential programs that could be replicated in their local governments.
This program at the end provided a roadmap report, which includes the challenges and opportunities of organizing this type of school, as well as underlining the key aspects of regional cooperation based on engaging diaspora with an objective of local development. Previously mentioned would provide useful tool for partners of Diaspora for Development project and authorities as well as to the Network of practitioners working with Diaspora.
Some of the challenges and opportunities of this type of school as well the key aspects of regional cooperation based on engaging diaspora with an objective of local development are:
• Need for disaggregated local level data, in standardized form, systematized data collection process and analysis
• Linking data/evidence with decision making process i.e. relying on data for policy development and development of practical diaspora engagement mechanisms
• Establish closer cooperation with practitioners and research community to support relevant data collection mechanisms and evidence-building for the purpose of creation policies, measures and mechanisms
• Improve regional cooperation with special focus on challenges, good practices and practical mechanisms – related to diaspora engagement at local level / support regional peer learning
• Regular discussion, review and opportunities related to transfer of knowledge – exploring new approaches and programs
• Engage diaspora experts for further western Balkan LG trainings/workshops
Full report of the Winter School can be found here.