Statement of the UN Resident Coordinator at the Launch of the Diaspora Engagement Project

Statement of the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Nathalie Ndongo-Seh, at the virtual launch of the Diaspora Engagement Project on Thursday, 11th February 2021.

Your Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,

Officials from the Government,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

UN colleagues, and in particular, Jeremias Mendes, Head of Office of the International Organization for Migration in the Kingdom of Eswatini,

Representatives from the Academia,

Leaders in business,

Representatives from the media,

Distinguished partners,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

A very good morning to you all and best wishes for the new year. It is with great pleasure that I join you in today’s exciting launch of the Diaspora Engagement Project. I would like to commend Her Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and her team, as well as the International Organisation for Migration for spear-heading this invaluable initiative.

Before I begin, I am reminded of the great African proverb that rightly says: “Home is not where we live: it is where we belong.” As a member of the United Nations, I have been gifted the wonderful opportunity to spend the past 21 years in 10 different countries, in addition to similar experiences for more than 20 years prior to serving the United Nations. Yet, Cameroon, the country in which I was born and in which part of my family lives, will always be my home and possibly where I truly belong. The same rings true for the many people who were born in the beautiful Kingdom of Eswatini, for their hearts will always remain firmly rooted in this welcoming, friendly and magnificent nation.

It is time to take pride in the Diaspora made of Emaswati who are not only changing or improving the lives of many others who reside in this nation but continue to fly the Eswatini flag high in different countries. This is the first time that a Diaspora Engagement is being initiated in Eswatini: as the UN, we are delighted to partner with the Government of Eswatini to implement this initiative that will contribute to the social and economic development of this nation. Accordingly, I would like to encourage you all, particularly the Technical Working Group that will implement this project, to take courage, be bold and stay committed to the implementation of this very important initiative.

As we remain in this last Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the implementation of a Diaspora Engagement Project comes at a pertinent time to ensure that nobody is left behind.

Around the world, an estimated 244 million people live outside their country of birth. Commonly referred to as ‘diasporas,’ these persons play a significant role in the development of their countries of birth. 

In 2015, diasporas contributed an approximate USD 552 billion to international financial remittance, of which USD 421 billion went to low-income and middle-income countries. Such remittances are often invested in property, business activities and infrastructure projects, in addition to supporting relatives back home.

In fact, in 2019, Emaswati received a total of E1.78 billion in personal remittances. This invaluable economic contribution by the diaspora to our nation cannot be underestimated. However, it is my understanding that the Government may not have accurate information on the number of Emaswati living abroad. This project will help to fill in that gap by conducting a comprehensive Diaspora mapping exercise that will also identify areas of interest for the diaspora and guide the development of future strategies to increase their participation in the social and economic development of the Kingdom.

There is no doubt that engagement with and investment in the economic, human, social and cultural capitals of the Diaspora will contribute to the diversification of Eswatini’s economy, beyond the country’s agriculture-dominated economy. Such investment will not only encourage the return of Emaswati with diverse skillsets and experiences, but will also contribute immensely to Eswatini economic growth, knowledge and well-being of Emaswati. However, for this potential to be harnessed, the Government needs to better understand the true potential that the diaspora may contribute to the development of this nation and enact policies that provide incentives and schemes that attract diaspora investments in Eswatini.

History has also shown that diasporas often provide assistance to their homelands in times of natural disasters and political instability. Thus, as we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought immense disruption and suffering to the world and our nation, we are presented with a unique opportunity to cultivate a warm relationship with the Emaswati diaspora and indeed, harvest the sweet fruits that this relationship bears.

The Kingdom of Eswatini holds immense potential to establish a meaningful relationship with Emaswati diaspora across the world. Thus, with a growing diaspora, there are continuously new opportunities to create vital relationships and enhance the development agenda of the Kingdom.

An effective Diaspora Policy, informed by the Diaspora Engagement Project, will enhance the connections between the growing diaspora, their destination countries and their country of origin.

However, it goes without saying that the first and most formidable step to ensuring an effective relationship with the Emaswati diaspora is, indeed, engaging with them and identifying significant gaps in this mutual relationship. I would therefore like to commend Her Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, for her visionary leadership in organizing this first diaspora engagement initiative, setting up a diaspora unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, recognising the invaluable potential of the Emaswati diaspora and the need for constant and innovative outreach with the community.

There is no doubt that, under your leadership, Your Excellency, the determination, commitment and expertise of the Technical Working Group, will lead to a strong, fruitful and invaluable relationship with the Emaswati diaspora.

The United Nations continues to stand by His Majesty’s Government of Eswatini in its endeavours to attain national development priorities and the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.

Through the UNSDCF 2021-2025 signed by the late Prime Minister with his entire Cabinet in October last year, the UN has committed to contribute to “a prosperous, just and resilient Eswatini”, where no one is left behind. We look forward to achieving this goal by 2025 with all Emaswati, in the country and from the Diasporas, for – in these times of hardship and major challenges in the Kingdom and around the world that may last another couple of years – the Kingdom needs all its sons and daughters, as well as friends by its sides to contribute to the social and economic development of the country.

I wish you all a successful day of deliberations. I thank you.

Speech by
Author
Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
UN entities involved in this initiative
IOM
International Organization for Migration