Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The therapeutic experience of migrants in development

If you want to know something about the life of immigrants in the Netherlands you should read the free newspaper “the African Bulletin”. It’s published every month and has all kind of interesting information that mainstream dutch newspapers don’t bother to publish. I get it at a local afroshop in my hometown Leeuwarden. Even here, all the way up north in Friesland, we have an african community. This month my eye caught the announcement of a policy Seminar on Migration and Development: october 24th. Allthough my tomtom (car navigator) had just died and The Hague is more then two hours drive i decided i would go anyway. I sent in my application and informed my fellow Third Chamber member Miesse Samafu that this is a seminar for us. I had a hard time finding a parking place near the Institute of Social Studies. I missed the introduction by Dr. Awil Mohammed, director of the African Diaspora Center. But I managed to get in half way the speech of Marieke van Renssen, spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Jennifer Brinkerhoff, Associate Professor Public Administration & International Affairs at George Washington University, stressed that migrants have a much larger contribution to the development of their countries of origin then just remittance. Leila Rispens, program director of Oxfam Novib, on the other hand stressed the importance of remittance. Joseph Seh elaborated on the question: if and how migrants can contribute to Development and if migrants should have their own capacity building organisation next to the mainstream development organisations. At lunch and in the break participants could exchange cards and meet each other in the restaurant of the ISS. After lunch there were workshops on experiences of diaspora organisations as agents for development. A poultry project in Ghana. A coffee project in Ethiopia. A flower farm in Ethiopia and a war victim project in Uganda. Great examples of how migrants can be transnational bridge builders. Mulugeta Asmellash expressed how he felt about the project by saying that it had a therapeutic effect on his relation to both his country of origin and the Netherlands of which he is a citizen now. Joseph Seh asked what the added value might be of a development project initiated by migrants compared to a project done by a mainstream development organisation. A participant from Burundi answered that projects developed by migrants could well be more sustainable because the relationship with the project isn’t based on money alone.

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