Published 01.02.2020

Bridge Builders – the role of the diaspora in the development of Somalia and the Horn of Africa

Operating models for members of the diaspora and parties working with them

During the autumn of 2019, the Dialogue Process project was implemented. Its goal was to hear the diaspora’s own views of their opportunities to participate in rebuilding their background country and promoting peace. The attached publication was drawn up as a part of the project; its purpose is to present key issues and operating models for diaspora networks and members of diaspora interested in the development of their background country, as well as the organisations, associations, officials and other interested parties that work with them. This publication is an abstract of a larger report that is available in Finnish on the website of the Finnish Somalia Network. This abstract is also available in Finnish, Swedish, English, Somali, Arabic, Dari and Kurdish.

 

The Dialogue Process project was coordinated by the Finnish Somalia Network. Partners of the project include Fingo, the umbrella organisation of Finnish development NGOs, and the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (Vikes). In addition to this publication, the Dialogue Process consisted of four discussion events on the diasporas from Somalia and Afghanistan as well as Iraq and Syria (including the Kurds). It was implemented as a part of the AUDA project (Assisted voluntary return to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia) of the Finnish Immigration Service, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Crisis Management Centre Finland (CMC Finland), which was funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

 

 

Bridge Builders – the role of the diaspora in the development of Somalia and the Horn of Africa

 

PUBLICATION ABSTRACT

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR: ROSA RANTANEN

RESEARCH ASSISTANT: LIBAN ABDI

 

PUBLISHED BY: THE FINNISH SOMALIA NETWORK

ADDRESS: LINTULAHDENKATU 10, FI-00500 HELSINKI, FINLAND

E-MAIL: TOIMISTO@SOMALIAVERKOSTO.FI

www.somaliaverkosto.fi/en/finnish-somalia-network/ (ENGLISH)

www.somaliaverkosto.fi/so/ururka-shabakada-finnishka-iyo-soomaalida-ee-finland/ (AF-SOOMAALI)

 

PHOTOS: THE FINNISH SOMALIA NETWORK, TATU HILTUNEN

 

2019

THIS REPORT WAS FUNDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION’S ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND INTEGRATION FUND (AMIF).

 

 

1 BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE OF THE PUBLICATION 

 

This publication is an abstract of the report ’Sillanrakentajat – diasporan rooli Somalian ja Afrikan sarven kehityksessä’ (Bridge builders – the role of the diaspora in the development of Somalia and the Horn of Africa) created by the Finnish Somalia Network. The publication discusses the role of the co-operation between the diaspora and the diaspora networks in the reconstruction and development of the background country. The Finnish Somalia Network is used as a case study.  The Finnish Somalia Network is an umbrella organisation for Finnish organisations operating in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The purpose of the publication is to present key issues and operating models for diaspora networks and members of diaspora interested in the development of their background country as well as the organisations, associations, officials and other interested parties that work with them. The original publication consists of 36 pages, and it is available in Finnish on the website of the Finnish Somalia Network. The abstract is also available in Finnish, Swedish, English, Somali, Arabic, Dari and Kurdish.

 

The publication is a part of the Dialogue Process project coordinated by the Finnish Somalia Network during the autumn of 2019. Partners of the project include Fingo, the umbrella organisation of Finnish development NGOs, and the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (Vikes). In addition to this publication, the Dialogue Process consisted of four discussion events on the diasporas from Somalia and Afghanistan as well as Iraq and Syria (including the Kurds). The goal of the project was to hear the diaspora’s own views of their opportunities to participate in rebuilding their background country and promoting peace. The Dialogue Process was funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). It was implemented as a part of the AUDA project (Assisted voluntary return to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia) of the Finnish Immigration Service, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Crisis Management Centre Finland (CMC Finland).

 

People who were or had been actively involved in the Finnish Somalia Network were interviewed for the publication. This publication focuses on the experiences of the Somali diaspora and the Finnish Somalia Network in particular. Issues that arose in discussions and seminars on the Iraqi, Syrian, Kurdish and Afghan diaspora during the autumn of 2019 were also used in the publication, however.

 

Mapping the diaspora’s operational preconditions related to the development of the background country is not only linked to how the people in the diaspora from Somalia and the Horn of Africa can organise and work together. By definition, the Finnish Somalia Network is not a diaspora network; it is an umbrella organisation, whose members include organisations that carry out development co-operation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The publication briefly surveys the role of the Somali diaspora in this setting and, in the opinion of individuals, how is their participation in the society affected by identifying with the diaspora.

 

The publication approaches the diaspora’s opportunities to influence issues through the Finnish Somalia Network, and therefore it does not try to present a comprehensive image of the views or activities of the Somali diaspora in Finland. First and foremost, the aim is to present how one network has succeeded in finding values and operating methods that connect different actors in order to promote the development co-operation in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

 

 

2 IMPLEMENTATION METHOD

Three individual interviews and one group interview with people who are or have been involved in the activities of the Finnish Somalia Network were conducted for this publication. Five of the current members of the board representing different member organisations participated in the group interview. Some of the discussions were held in Finnish, some in Somali.  Two of the interviewees were born in Finland, the rest were born in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Four women and three men in total participated in the interviews. Except for one, the interviewees were members of the Somali diaspora.

The interviews had a common framework of questions, but this was not an interview study, it was a free-form discussion about the themes. The aim was to limit the topic to the diaspora’s opportunities to participate specifically within the context of the Finnish Somalia Network, while still leaving room for any different themes that might arise. The interviews were implemented as meetings in Helsinki in November 2019.

 

While this publication is not an actual study, expert statements and literature in the field have been used as sources. During the Dialogue Process, a few key concepts came up repeatedly; defining them is essential in discussing the opportunities of the diaspora to influence matters. The concepts arose either directly or indirectly in the discussions and interviews. This means that the choice of key concepts is based on the issues that the interviewees and experts themselves brought up in the interviews and discussions during the project.

 

3 DIASPORA AS AN EXPERIENCE: DIASPORA AND IDENTITY 

When discussing the opportunities of the diaspora to participate and influence issues, defining what diaspora means is essential. In this publication, the definition and analysis of concepts are based especially on observations in which issues were highlighted by the members of the diaspora and people working with the diaspora. Even though diaspora as a word is commonly used, different people and actors may use it to refer to slightly different things. This should be taken into account in the work and decision-making related to the diaspora.

 

In general, diaspora refers to a group of people that has been forced to leave their home country and settled down to live outside it. Diaspora is connected to a longing for the home country (such as Somalia), regardless of whether the person has been born there or outside it (such as in Finland). Diaspora is linked to identifying actively with the culture of the background country, following the news and current events, as well as exerting influence in the society. In this publication, the term background country is mainly used to refer to Somalia and the Horn of Africa, while the term country of residence is used to refer to Finland. However, many of the interviewees themselves referred to Somalia as their home country, and the concepts in general are not unambiguous.

One of the interview questions was “What does being a member of the diaspora mean to you?” Its aim was to map how the interviewees themselves understand the concept of diaspora and how they experience it as a part of their personal lives and identity. Identity is a key concept when discussing diaspora.

One of the interviewees emphasised that after leaving the background country, people integrate in the new country and that this phase is very important. Only then does the desire to help and do something for one’s own home country emerge. In fact, the role of activity in the definition of diaspora was highlighted in the interviews. The same person also noted that the terms diaspora, refugee and immigrant should be kept separate. According to the interviewee, the concepts in Finland have evolved compared to earlier times. ‘In the early 1990s, we were just aliens. It even said that on your passport. Now we have reached the point that there is a new Finnish term: the Finnish Somali diaspora.’

Even though people born in Finland are usually included in diaspora by definition, there may not necessarily be a consensus on the content of the concept within the diaspora. One of the interviewees notes: ‘It’s difficult for me to see the young people who grew up here as a part of the diaspora, unless they have visited their own home country.’

An interviewee born in Finland says that finding an identity between two cultures have caused difficulties in his life. For the interviewee, the Somali diaspora meant finding his ‘own cultural class’ and a feeling of belonging to a group. The interviewee feels that in a way, the diaspora is more of a home than Somalia or Finland. For example, he feels that on a general level, he can identify with other young people in the Somali diaspora in Europe more easily than those who were born and live in Somalia.

 

According to the interviewee, he still often needs to answer questions in Finland like ‘where are you really from’ or ‘where are your parents from’. He says that he has heard the questions so often that he has become numb and gotten used to answering that he is Finnish Somali. He adds that ‘it’s interesting how a culture or country can be strongly present in your everyday life, even if you’ve never lived or visited there’. He doesn’t identify as a ‘second-generation immigrant’; he feels that it creates a separation between people, even though the cultural identity of the parents is present in his life.

 

Many of the interviewees, regardless of their age and gender, said that they identified more with the Somali diaspora than with the Somalis who were born and live in Somalia. Many also identify with diaspora groups other than the Somali diaspora. One of the interviewees expressed this as follows: ‘Diaspora usually refers to people who haven’t settled down, which means that the longing for the home country is also great.’ In that case, ‘the person’s mind is not always present here; instead, it constantly longs for home and exists between two places.’

 

Unfortunately, experiences of racism, discrimination and being an outsider connect the members of diaspora. It is also true that there is discrimination and strong differences of opinion within the diaspora. Discrimination and racism sometimes manifest as direct verbal or physical attacks. In addition, research has shown that discrimination occurs in Finland in working life and education, for instance. Discrimination also happens in everyday life as microaggressions, where someone offends a member of diaspora indirectly, either or unconsciously or on purpose. A typical example is when a young person with Somali background born in Finland is asked where they are ‘really’ from, while assuming that they are not Finnish. The experience of being an outsider may sometimes increase the desire to seek the company of other members of diaspora. This is a personal resource for many, but it also poses a challenge to integration and well-being when members of the diaspora feel that they are separate from the Finnish society.

 

4 DIASPORA AS AN ACTOR 

4.1 The birth of the Finnish Somalia Network and its activities 

 

The Finnish Somalia Network was established in 2004 and registered as an association in 2009.  The network’s own premises were opened in 2014, and it employs 5–6 workers. After its establishment, the network has received plenty of funding from different parties, and the quality of the projects has improved and become more professional over the years. Today, the network acts as an umbrella organisation for 32 member organisations and co-ordinates three development co-operation projects in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. In addition, the network trains member organisations in connection with issues such as administration and improving the quality of organisational activities. Young people have joined especially via the Impact Academy activities, which offer training and mentoring related to working life and influencing issues in the society. The activities are open to all interested young people regardless of their background.

 

The Finnish Somalia Network has succeeded in making their activities grow since its establishment, and the number of member organisations has increased. Over the past 15 years, the recognition of the Finnish Somalia Network has improved, and it co-operates with many parties operating in the third sector in Finland. Most of the member organisations of the Finnish Somalia Network are diaspora organisations for the region of Somalia and the Horn of Africa, but other organisations are also included. It was brought up in several discussions that co-operation with other Finnish parties (that are not a part of the Somali diaspora) promotes the diaspora’s opportunities to influence issues related to the development co-operation in particular, because it adds different kinds of perspectives and knowledge of the Finnish third sector and operating culture. The presence of people and organisations with Finnish background that are not part of the Somali diaspora in different situations sometimes eases the internal tensions within the diaspora. When focusing on a specific activity, such as a joint project, it is easier to work together, despite the differences in opinion within the group (politics, clans, religion). Even though the activities include people with Finnish background, most of the network’s active participants and members of the board are members of the Somali diaspora. The issue is first and foremost finding a functioning model for co-operation between parties with different backgrounds and operating methods.

When the aim is to improve the opportunities of the diaspora (or any other group) to influence issues as an organised actor, attention must be paid to the equality and professionalism of the activities. According to one of the interviewees who had been involved in establishing the Finnish Somalia Network, it was created when the representatives of the diaspora got tired of how there were many ongoing projects between Finland and Somalia, but they did not seem to achieve the best possible results. According to the interviewee, they became frustrated by each group hanging on to their own project. Later, they understood that by co-operating and organising they could help with the development of the region of Somalia better. This understanding, however, did not happen quickly; the process took several years. The passage of time and spending time physically sitting together and talking was considered to play an important role, even though the progress was relatively slow. Co-operation became closer not because all differences in opinion had been resolved; it happened because the different actors realised that organising together served both their own goals and the diaspora’s shared goal, which could be generalised as the development of Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

In the interviews, it was asked what the common goal of the diaspora could be. Finding one shared goal for the diaspora is a fairly unrealistic objective to begin with, and the interviewees also noted this often. The diaspora is not a homogenous group, and there may be very strong differences of opinion within it. However, many believed that working together is possible even when people do not agree on everything. In general, it could be said that even though the diaspora does not have one single common goal, its representatives may have smaller common objectives, and they work side by side to achieve them.

 

One of the board members said that he opposes the clan thinking and that from the start, he felt that this was not a problem in the network. ‘People did things together and focused on the need.’ He says that he has not travelled to Somalia in person to carry out development co-operation, but has been able to see close up in Finland ‘how the third sector works and how it’s administered effectively.’ The interviewee says that he was impressed by how people with Somali background and Finns worked together and independently in practical ways to improve the situation in Somalia. ‘Not everything is politics, even though I used to believe that before.’  In the discussions, the umbrella organisation was seen as an important link between the different member organisations, and it was considered to make the administration of the projects more effective. Several people mentioned that the umbrella organisation is important for the Somali diaspora and that it acts as a bridge between different parties.

 

But why have the activities of the Finnish Somalia Network in particular been successful, and could the network’s operating models be copied for the use of others? In the interviews, it was discovered that the Finnish Somalia Network is not simply important in principle, but that it also supports the member organisations in their everyday activities. In practice, the umbrella organisation helps with issues such as communication between the member organisations, arranging seminars, applying for funding, and co-ordinating projects and communications. The success of the Finnish Somalia Network, or any network working with the diaspora, was considered to be based on the network being politically and ideologically independent. In that case, it does not exclude anyone in principle based on their background, opinions or religious convictions.

 

4.2 Expertise 

 

In principle, members of the diaspora can be seen as experts by experience: only people with Somalian background can know what it feels like to be Somali. When discussing organisational activities and development co-operation, however, it is important to keep in mind that expertise by experience and a personal relationship with the country does not mean professional expertise. For that reason, it is important to combine the diaspora experience with professional skills that can be found both within and outside the diaspora.

 

Taking the diaspora’s own experience into account when mapping the diaspora’s needs is essential. The way people speak for minorities with a foreign background (such as diasporas, refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants) in the Finnish media, research and political discussion instead of the minorities being actively involved in producing and sharing information was brought up in several discussions and interviews. The decision-making in issues related to the diaspora often happens without representation by the diaspora. In the Finnish society, more attention should be paid to who speaks and for whom. Many members of the diaspora from Somalia or other countries agreed that members of the diaspora should be more actively involved in the planning and implementation of various projects as equals, instead of being asked for comments and ‘given’ a chance to speak. This may mean a more diverse group of people participating in different kinds of working groups and projects at the planning stage, as well as paying more attention to hiring representatives of the diaspora as employees and experts in tasks related to the diaspora.

 

The opportunities of the diaspora to participate and influence issues in the background country is greatly affected by its security situation, which is extremely poor in many areas in Somalia, for instance. Even though Somalia as a country is slowly developing and improving, few want to return there voluntarily. According to a study carried out in Finland, many asylum seekers from Somalia have decided that they would rather stay undocumented in Finland than return to Somalia after receiving a negative asylum decision. In connection with the voluntary return programme, the concept of voluntary can be challenged, because in some situations in which people refuse voluntary return, they are either returned by force or stay undocumented. If the return is not voluntary in the real meaning of the word, the system may endanger the life of the returnees and violate their human rights. In the autumn of 2019, Finland received the first sentence for violation of the European Convention on Human Rights from the European Court of Human Rights, because a man that had been returned to Iraq from Finland had been killed soon after his return. Even though there are individual and regional differences, the threats to personal safety limit the opportunities for return migration and the operation of the diaspora in the background country considerably.

 

When discussing return migration, it must be noted that if people return or are returned permanently to the country of origin, they can be defined as returnees rather than members of the diaspora. Through development co-operation and organisational activities in Finland, the development of the background country can be supported even when the security situation does not allow a permanent return. When the situation is favourable, returning to the background country temporarily for aid work is often a positive and significant experience. ‘When you have gone there, you can add your own contribution by working or volunteering for different organisations,’ one of the interviewees says. ‘This is where the motivation comes from.’

 

The interviewee describes how there are countless ways to build bridges: through profession and expertise, entrepreneurship or diplomatic relationships. ‘But the greatest motivation should be what you can do for your home country. I’m motivated by rebuilding Somalia and working there, and especially by my work that I started through the activities of the Finnish Somalia Network. I didn’t visit Somalia so often before that.’

 

4.3 Language and religion  

 

On a general level, the Somali diaspora is connected globally by at least two things: language (Somali) and religion (Islam). Even though there are differences, many of the interviewees recognised the power of these two unifying factors. They were seen as ways to help people work together for common goals.

 

If the diaspora uses several official languages, the politics of language choice are highlighted. In that case, it is not possible to reach the whole diaspora or even most of it in the same language, and in that sense, information is not distributed equally. Unlike in the Somali diaspora, several large diaspora groups are divided into different language groups. For example, in the Iraqi or Syrian diaspora, the majority speak Arabic, but some of the population identify as Kurds and considers Kurdish (the sorani or kurmanji dialect) as their mother tongue. In addition, other languages are also used in the areas. This means that whether Arabic, Kurdish or another language is used in the communications has major political significance. In general, it could be said that a common language helps with finding a common goal, both at the level of a diaspora living in a certain country and as a global diaspora. In the interviews, the Somali language was considered a resource that connects the Somali diaspora. Sometimes a language barrier can be created between members of the diaspora, if the language of the background country is primary for some while the language of the new (only) home country is primary for others. The more generations of members of the diaspora are born in Finland, the more likely it is that they speak another language in addition to, or instead of, Somali. On the other hand, the relationship with the Somali language is preserved through education, family and contact with Somalia. When planning the activities of diaspora networks and including young people in particular, the importance of language should nevertheless be taken into account.

 

Some Somalis who have lived in Finland for a long time, especially older ones, do not feel that they have learned enough Finnish to obtain Finnish citizenship or to be able to act independently in the society. Some of the adults who arrived in Finland during the previous decades – as well as some of those who arrive as asylum seekers today – are illiterate. Learning skills in Finland is a challenge, because in addition to learning to read and write, they also need to learn a new language, a new culture and the basics of school attendance. Illiterate people should also be taken into account in the activities of the diaspora networks, because they are in an especially vulnerable position compared to people with language skills and more education.  One of the interviewees relates that care within the Somali community brings the members of the community closer together. ‘We must invest in education,’ the interviewee says. ‘Like a tree, it needs to be watered continuously.’ The interviewee continues: ‘People should not be taught, they should be encouraged to study. How could we encourage the housewives living in Finland to become educated so that they would also become more active and encourage their children to join the network’s activities, for instance?’

 

According to the same interviewee, it is important for the diaspora community to understand that a few years of education, for instance, increase people’s know-how and income after graduation. According to the interviewee, people need to stop thinking about short-term goals. In that case, ‘housewives wouldn’t be caught in vicious circle of work experience placements that don’t improve their skills or critical thinking.’ By supporting the parents, it is also possible to influence indirectly young people who often need special support while growing with two cultures.

 

4.4 Trust and equality

 

One of the concepts that came up often in the interviews and discussion events was trust. Trust was not defined precisely in different situations, but it can refer both to trust within the diaspora and trust between the diaspora and the Finnish society, as well as the trust between the diaspora and the local inhabitants in the background country.

 

Trust is important when the diaspora joins in aid work on site in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. At the same time, there is also mistrust and suspicion towards the diaspora. Sometimes people feel that members of the diaspora have better chances of finding jobs and relationships than the locals, for example. Members of the diaspora also bring along behavioural models, ways of dressing and values that are not considered favourably in the background country. In addition, the diaspora may face unreasonable expectations with regard to wealth, for instance. Simply put, members of the Somali diaspora are often considered experts on Somalia in Finland, while in Somalia they are seen as outsiders to a degree.  In many cases, however, members of the diaspora build trust through personal relationships as well as their knowledge of the culture and religion.

 

The authorities and organisations should take the operating methods of different cultures into account while planning co-operation with the diaspora. A diaspora community that aims to organise and participate in influencing issues in the society should note that the activities of organisations and associations have established operating models, and following them influences their opportunities to participate. For example, officials and politicians can find registered associations and organisations with a clear structure and operating method more easily. If a diaspora group is not organised and it has no representation or contact information, its voice will not be heard in the social discussion and decision-making. The Finnish society plays its own important role in actively trying to reach the diaspora network so that they can participate in the work on the background country’s development.

It is important to keep in mind that the diaspora does not have a single voice, and that everyone should have an equal opportunity to state their opinion. It was often brought up in the discussions that it is difficult to say who is the right representative of the diaspora in the end, or if one should even be sought. Even though it cannot be assumed that the diaspora would have one single unified voice, the opinion of the diaspora may still be desired in different social discussions and decisions. In that case, the diaspora is often represented by the diaspora networks.

The Finnish Somalia Network is not an actual diaspora network, it is an umbrella organisation for Finnish organisations operating in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Most of the members and representatives of the member organisations are members of the diaspora, however. In the interviews, the concept of an umbrella organisation specifically was repeated often, and people referred to it more than to a ‘diaspora network’, for instance. The umbrella organisation was seen as useful because it gathers different actors under it and supports them equally. In fact, it could be said that instead of finding the diaspora’s ‘common goal’, it is possible to work peacefully side by side, even if not all of the diaspora’s internal differences have been resolved. The umbrella organisation can be considered to represent multivoiced expertise – it gathers actors together under common principles and operating models without requiring unanimity in all issues.

 

If organisation and new networks are being planned within the diaspora, the option of establishing an umbrella organisation should be considered while using shared ideas for activities as the lead. In that case, the representation of the diaspora will be more diverse than if finding one common goal and approach is set as the condition for organisation. From the start, both representatives of the Somali diaspora and Finnish experts from outside it have been involved in the establishment of the Finnish Somalia Network. With regard to Somalia, the long tradition of bilateral development co-operation has made such collaboration easier. When the situation in the diaspora’s background country is different from that of Somalia, implementing similar projects may not be possible or practical. In the discussions, it was noted that there is plenty of wealth in places like Iraq, but it is distributed unequally. The people are frustrated with the inequality, corruption and violations of human rights, which is difficult to change by means of traditional development co-operation or financial support.

 

In several interviews and discussions, it was repeated concerning both Somalia and other countries that instead of financial support, expertise should be exported to the background countries. In addition, the idea that development always means exporting a skill or commodity to the background country should be abandoned: development can also be supported by sharing information and experiences and, for instance, promoting the opportunities of those living in the background country to express their opinions in public and carry out international business. In addition, the diaspora can facilitate communication about issues related to their background country and influencing those issues politically in their own country of residence.

 

4.5 Future goals and the role of young people

 

Even more young people are wanted as participants in the Finnish Somalia Network, even though the younger generations have also discovered the activities. An interviewee who was involved during the establishment phase describes the situation: ‘At the moment, not many young people want to join the activities genuinely and passionately. We should invest in young people. I have studied how volunteering increases and supports employment. There is evidence showing that volunteering increases motivation and competence. If you have these skills, employers will also value them.’

 

Education and activities intended for immigrants are often targeted at the children of immigrants. An interviewee says that as a child, it took a long time for him to wake up and see that such an approach creates a separation between himself and other people who were born in Finland, and that by definition, he is not an immigrant. The Somali identity is often seen as something positive despite the challenges, however. For the interviewee, the connection to the Somalian culture and the desire to learn more about his own cultural background lowered the threshold for him to join the activities of the diaspora network compared to other hobbies and activities.

 

One of the board members stated that at 15 years of age, the Finnish Somalia Network is now a legal adult according to the Somalian law. The interviewees hoped that the activities of the network that had now come of age would grow and continue. Many wished that in the future, the activities would cover an increasingly larger area geographically in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Closer co-operation with the local actors in the background country was seen as a positive goal. It was brought up many times that Finland and Finns have a good reputation in Somalia as a reliable partner in co-operation, which makes it easier to operate.

 

In general, people thought that the activities would undergo significant changes in the future, even though they were not yet sure how. A key question is how to get young people to join in the activity. People also wondered if it would be possible to arrange more activities in Finland in parallel with the development co-operation projects, such as supporting marginalised young people. One of the interviewees said that participation in the activities of associations in general is not very attractive for young people nowadays, and new operating methods need to be found. Many young people with Somali background born in Finland have a strong Somali identity, however, which is why it was thought that at least some of the young people would be interested in participating in the activities of diaspora networks. It will be interesting how the changes in generations and identities within the diaspora will become visible in the forms of activity.

 

CONCLUSION

 

During the Dialogue Process, recommendations were collected for supporting the social participation of the diaspora in their current country of residence as well as in relation to their background country. The recommendations have been listed briefly below, and they can be used by members of the diaspora and diaspora networks as well as organisations, officials, decision-makers and other experts working with the diaspora.

 

  1. The early participation of members of the diaspora in projects, activities by the authorities and research that involves them and their background country must be guaranteed. This applies both to the planning and the implementation phase. The participation of the diaspora should not be seen as added value, but rather as a requirement. Expertise by experience must be separated from professional expertise, however. Equal representation of members of the diaspora must be guaranteed.

 

  1. Special attention must be paid to the language and communication methods. The use of social media is important, and it reaches a lot of people. Communication in different languages should be a requirement, not added value. Information should be available as easily as possible in the languages used by the diaspora (not just via a link shared in the language of the country of residence, for example). Using different languages means that information is disseminated effectively, and it also helps reach those who are in a vulnerable position due to limited language skills.

 

The organisation of diaspora communities should be supported. An umbrella organisation is an especially good structure when many smaller groups or associations want to work together. Even if there are unresolved differences of opinion, different groups can still work side by side. The inclusion of people from outside the diaspora often promotes mutual learning, trust and understanding the operating cultures.