Working Group on Strengthening and Mainstreaming Diaspora Engagement in Shelter Responses

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This Working Group aims to provide a concrete contribution to the process of straightening and mainstreaming diaspora's engagement in shelter response, by developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for diaspora organizations to promote an increased coordination with Diaspora actors and more effective responses, which account for the meaningful contribution of diasporas, as "non-traditional" but key actors. These SOPs will seek to help clarify how these diaspora organizations can link with the Shelter Cluster and international shelter organizations, as well as how diaspora groups can better use their skills and capacities in response. The focus will primarily be on natural disasters with a focus on the Diaspora groups for Haiti, Bangladesh and the Philippines, but the outcomes of the Working Group will eventually be of use for other contexts and Diasporas.

Diasporas play a key role in disaster response in their countries of origin, directly or through resources sent to their communities. They send home billions of dollars in remittances every year – more than official aid and foreign direct investment. When crises erupt, diaspora initiatives and organizations are often first-line responders, quickly sending relief and financial aid and volunteers, directly to affected communities and support local structures. Due to their ties and networks in their countries of origin, they have access to relevant information, are able to assist during the crisis in areas with limited access to conventional actors and continue providing support as the immediate response moves to rehabilitation and recovery.

In the wake of the World Humanitarian Summit (Turkey, January 2016) the international humanitarian community launched a clear call to effectively involve non-traditional actors, such as diasporas, for a more effective and comprehensive response. Moreover, the Sendai Framework recognizes migrants contribute to the resilience of communities and societies, and their knowledge, skills and capacities can be useful in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction. However, despite widespread interest in diasporas’ as humanitarian partners, their engagement in disaster response has yet to be fully explored and coordinated for maximum impact. Through this Working Group we plan to concretely advance this agenda.

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Coordination Team