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 strengthening and mainstreaming diaspora's engagement in shelter response (DESR), through the development and consolidation of key coordination tools and other relevant material.

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.

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 organisations are often first-line responders, quickly sending relief, financial aid and volunteers directly to affected communities and to support local structures. Due to their transnational ties and networks in their countries of origin and high degree of local knowledge, they are often able to reach affected populations conventional actors struggle to access and continue providing support as the immediate response moves to rehabilitation and recovery.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on Diaspora’s Engagement in Shelter Assistance have been finalised in August 2021. This cornerstone document proposes a step-by-step procedure for a more coordinated and effective engagement of diasporas in the Shelter & Settlement response, with the ultimate goal of expanding and improving assistance in the shelter sector, at different stages of the crisis management cycle, for communities affected disaster. By identifying key processes for DESR, these SOPs seek to clarify how these diaspora organisations can link with the Shelter Cluster and international shelter organisations, as well as how diaspora groups can better use their skills and capacities in response. The primary focus is on natural disasters specific to US-based diaspora communities for Haiti, Bangladesh and the Philippines, but could eventually be of use for other contexts and Diasporas.

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Coordination Team