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Diaspora Engagement with Fragile States: Lessons and Prospects

Diaspora in Conflict State photoDescription: In the modern world, talent is the most precious of resources and it tends to move globally. Mobilization of diasporas for the benefit of country of origin has shown a tremendous potential, yet putting this promise into practice has proven to be elusive: diaspora initiatives are very easy to start but difficult to sustain in both high and low income countries. The session will provide an overview and "mapping" of the variety of activities, pros and cons, diasporas engage in vis-a-vis conflict and post-conflict countries. Detailed examples from practical and direct experiences in Liberia will be discussed. An open discussion will follow the presentation. Presenters in this session included Jennifer Brinkerhoff, Professor of Public Administration & International Affairs and Stephen Lubkemann, Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, both at George Washington University. Sima Kanaan and Richard Cambridge from the World Bank also participated in the discussion.

Sponsored by the World Bank Institute Growth and Crisis Practice (WBIGC) and the African Diaspora Program (ADP). The session is part of the BBL series: 'How can talent abroad help build institutions at home?' which is project on migrant talent as key  participant of domestic reform coalitions (funded by the MacArthur Foundation).



Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff is a Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs at the George Washington University. She holds a Ph.D. in public administration from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and a MPA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She consults for multilateral development banks, bilateral assistance agencies, NGOs, and foundations.  Combining her research with this work, she published Partnership for International Development: Rhetoric or Results? (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), as well as three co-edited journal issues and over forty-five articles and book chapters on topics ranging from evaluation, to NGOs, failed states, governance, and diasporas. She is the author of Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and the editor of Diasporas and Development: Exploring the Potential (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008). She also completed an edited volume and commissioned research for the Asia Development Bank on Converting Migration Drains into Gains: Harnessing the Resources of Overseas Professionals (2006), and is the editor of the Lynne Rienner Publishers book series on Diasporas in World Politics. She is the co-Director and co-founder of GW’s Diaspora Research Program, a multidisciplinary research program on diasporas, identity, policy, and development; and co-founded the GW International NGO team and co-edited, NGOs and the Millennium Development Goals: Citizen Action to Reduce Poverty (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).


Stephen Lubkemann (Ph.d 2000, Brown University) is Associate Professor of Anthropology and of International Affairs at The George Washington University.  He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Mozambique, South Africa, Liberia, and Angola and among African refugees and migrants in Portugal and in the U.S. In 2003, with grants from the United States Institute for Peace, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies, he initiated a long-term research project that is examining the political and socio-economic influence of displacement diasporas in their war-torn countries of origin through a focus on Liberians in the US.  He is currently concluding another project initiated in 2005 with a MacArthur grant that focuses on internal displacement and urbanization, informal economic activity, and governance in Angola. Since 2007 he has been the PI on the USIP-sponsored policy research project Customary and Informal Legal Systems in Liberia: Rule of Law Options for the First Post-Conflict Decade. In 2008 he launched the Southern African Slave Wrecks and S.A.V.E. Heritage Project, an international collaboration funded by the Ford Foundation, with South African , Mozambican and Angolan partners, that seeks to harness heritage research and preservation to the task of economic development and sustainable African research capacity.  He has published articles in the Journal of Refugee Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Anthropological Quarterly, Journal of Peace Research, International Migration, and Diaspora, and is the author of numerous book chapters and reports. His book Culture in Chaos: An Anthropology of the Social Condition in War (University of Chicago Press, 2008) examines how displacement and violence effect social change in protracted conflict settings and critically reviews how international humanitarianism fails to account for new transnational realities. He has also co-edited volumes on the topics of: Warscape Ethnography in West Africa (2005), Social Science and Humanitarian Action (1999), and Kinship and Globalization (2007). Dr. Lubkemann served as a core consultant for the Humanitarianism and War Project (1998-2005), on the first Roundtable on Forced Migration of the National Research Council (1999-2001), and currently is appointed as a senior social scientist for the US Census Bureau’s Statistical Research Division. He has served as a consultant for a variety of agencies and organizations including USAID, CARE, USIP, the German Marshall Fund, and Finnida amongst others. He currently serves on the Technical Advisory Board of the GWU African Center for Health and Human Security where he is initiating a “Social and Cultural Life of Law” working group and spearheads the development of the African Diaspora Dialogue Initiative.  As a co-founder of the GWU Diaspora Research and Policy Program, he also heads up two new collaborative research initiatives on Diasporan Humanitarianism and on Diasporas as Neglected Agents of Change in Warzones. Since 2005 he has served as the associate editor for the journal Anthropological Quarterly

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