This paper begins with a familiar story – the story of the dramatic rise of ‘diaspora’ in international development debates. ‘Diaspora’ is the word on everyone’s lips, and on high-level agendas. What do those in the international development sector mean by ‘diaspora’, why has this idea garnered so much interest, and what are diaspora groups, governments and INGOs actually doing?

Once we begin to look more closely, critical questions begin to arise. Do diaspora groups have unique roles to play in international development? Or are the ways in which diaspora is being talked about just the latest empty fad from powerful northern governments and INGOs? Do diaspora groups involved in international development need ‘capacity building’ assistance or do capacity building programmes promote the status quo at the expense of equality and diversity? Can engaging with some of these tricky questions transform our conceptions of development? This briefing paper will summarise the key debates around the involvement of diaspora groups in international development, outline a variety of current initiatives in the area, and explore some of the critical questions raised above.



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