Call for Evidence:
The International Development Committee has decided to launch a new inquiry into The philosophy and culture of aid and it wants you to tell us which topics the inquiry should consider. We are keen to learn where the inquiry could add the greatest value to the debate on the UK’s development strategy and broader public discussion about the culture of aid. In broad terms, the Committee is interested in why the UK gives foreign aid and what the benefits are to countries such as the UK of having an aid budget. We also want to examine some of the problems and challenges that the aid sector faces and how aid delivery can be improved.
We have launched a call for written evidence submissions that help us to shape the next stages of this inquiry. The deadline for written evidence is Thursday 18 March 2021. After this date we will draw up more specific terms of reference and provide details of further ways that stakeholders can get involved with this work.
Key challenges for the FCDO’s development and aid include the need to balance public and political demands for greater accountability, transparency, diversity and inclusion and due diligence against the imperative to support people living in fragile and conflict affected states where governance is poor. The increasing scrutiny of the charity sector due to the lack of safeguarding policies and practice has seen the former Department for International Development (DFID) which now it’s been replaced by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has increased the level of due diligence in grant/contract management.
COVID19 has significantly impacted the work of British NGOs in the UK and overseas including reduced fundraising income. The diaspora community including the Arab Yemeni-British diaspora is conscious of these challenges and our key role as strong diaspora community in helping to engage with other NGOs and promote a positive awareness of the philosophy and culture of aid, British culture and heritage around the world. We, the diaspora community, urge the FCDO to focus in the coming months and years to listen and engage us in your future consultation.
Diaspora communities’ engagement in humanitarian response
The diaspora communities can play a key role in humanitarian response through engaging with a multitude of stakeholders for an effective and inclusive response. With better telecommunications and increasing mobility, diaspora communities are growing and becoming ever more engaged in their countries of origin. FCDO should systematically explore or coordinate with other humanitarian actors how to involve diaspora communities/organisations in humanitarian response of their countries of origin.
In the UK, Arab diaspora communities/organisations are already playing a significant role in humanitarian fields in the precrisis, crisis, and post-crisis contexts. With the growing number of humanitarian emergencies and many of these crises being protracted like the case of Syria and Yemen, diaspora communities and organisations are increasingly engaged and tend to remain more actively involved for longer periods of time than humanitarian organisations. In many cases, diaspora communities/organisations can access those areas where the international community and humanitarian organisations cannot reach affected populations. This has been witnessed particularly in recent years in countries and regions where political turmoil and volatile security situations have hindered larger humanitarian organisations from providing the assistance that is required. In cases like these, the involvement of diaspora communities/organisations has been essential.
Diaspora communities’ engagement in humanitarian response should not be seen as a static action. Rather the context and length of a crisis can determine the nature of diaspora communities’ engagement, which may evolve over the period of the crisis itself. Natural disasters, armed conflict, political conflicts, and complex crises each generate unique issues to be considered when contemplating diaspora communities’ engagement. It is also important to highlight that diaspora communities do have the ability to impact humanitarian response through not only their financial remittances but also by bringing their intellectual, political, social, and cultural capital. By having in-depth knowledge of their country of origin, speaking the language, and familiarity with social, cultural, and religious norms, diaspora communities have a much stronger link to their respective countries of origin than other humanitarian organisations and their staff. Furthermore, diaspora communities often do not have the same stigma attached to them as international organisations, which are often associated with safeguarding scandals or Western governments and power. Diaspora communities, because of their personal link, tend to remain committed to their country of origin long after other humanitarian organisations have completed their engagement.
FCDO and ways of working with diaspora:
Despite the increasing importance of diaspora communities, there are no structured frameworks for their engagement to help improve coordination mechanisms with humanitarian organisations. FCDO should acknowledge areas where diaspora communities’ engagement can increase if there is joint facilitation unit with receiving communities and international and local actors.
FCDO should urge humanitarian organisations to cooperate and work with diaspora communities in order to enhance efficiency and utilise the great potential of these smaller diaspora communities and organisations. An active engagement and exchange of ideas and perspectives can contribute to long-term development. This can be expanded to include agile programming that moves from relief to development engagement where diaspora communities can also play key roles in preparedness, disaster risk reduction and peacebuilding, long-term development and capacity building.
For meaningful partnerships to work, common purpose is not enough. Humanitarian organisations and diaspora communities should undertake efforts to understand, acknowledge, and value each other’s initiatives and approaches. An increased understanding and a calibration of risks of diaspora engagement is necessary and partnerships have to be critically assessed. In order to integrate diaspora interventions in humanitarian response, policies, funding, support, and dialogue have to be increased in order for international organisations, local actors, the private sector, and government institutions, to form relationships that fully engage diaspora communities as equal partners.
A Yemeni-British Independent Development Professional