Government and Diaspora Discuss Innovative Engagement Strategies for Children in Armenia
YEREVAN, 3 February 2016 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the European Union, the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia and Mission East launched a conference today to discuss innovative approaches to diaspora engagement and use of remittances for child well-being in Armenia. The conference was attended by over 70 representatives of the Armenian government and diaspora and was organised in the framework of the EU-funded “Mitigating social consequences of labour migration and maximising migrants’ involvement in local development” project, implemented by UNICEF.
Participants discussed the potential of the diaspora and migrants to contribute to social sector development in Armenia and support most vulnerable children and families in the framework of child-related reforms. “The diaspora Armenians and organisations can play an important role in strengthening gate-keeping mechanisms, such as daycare centers, in establishing new social services for vulnerable families, in supporting alternative family-based child care, assisting the further development of integrated social services in the country, as well as promoting excellence in education and healthcare. All of these are areas where support is not only needed, but is most efficient in terms of poverty alleviation, particularly child poverty,” said Tanja Radocaj, Representative of UNICEF in Armenia.
Participants heard from two keynote presenters, invited by UNICEF. Mr. Kingsley Aikins, CEO of the Ireland-based Diaspora Matters firm, elaborated on Ireland’s unique hybrid public-private partnership model of diaspora engagement, which capitalises on the potential of the diaspora for business development, job-creation, local development and other spheres of life, impacting child-oriented social spheres. In the Armenian context, this two-way approach to diaspora engagement requires re-thinking of the diaspora, its definition and modes of engagement, as well as calls for “diasporising” the government for a more comprehensive, trustworthy and mutually beneficial partnership. Ms. Kathleen Newland, Co-Founder of the Washington DC based Migration Policy Institute, presented various ways for the use of remittances for child well-being from around the world, including direct funding, building upon financial instruments and services and using social networks to promote investment in children. Ms. Newland also talked about the possible reoriented use of remittances in Armenia for pre-natal care, early childhood education, and healthcare.
“While remittances from migrants and the diaspora are key in sustaining many of the most vulnerable families, they are often used for consumption and do not materialize in investment. It is important that these remittances, which comprise 20% of Armenia’s GDP, are used as efficiently as possible, contributing to growth, socio-economic development and job-creation and impacting the lives of the most vulnerable families and children,” said H.E. Mr. Piotr Antoni Switalski, Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Armenia.
As part of the visit, the two experts also delivered training on diaspora engagement strategies for the staff of the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, where practical application issues were also discussed. Thematic discussions were also held for the Training and Research Centre of the Central Bank of Armenia and a number of other stakeholders in the country.
The visits were organized as a follow up to the earlier visit of the Armenian delegation to Ireland in October 2015 to study diaspora engagement strategies for children and local development. The goal of the larger project, funded by the EU, is to promote the better use of migrants’ and diaspora’s financial and intellectual resources for the benefit of their communities and children in Armenia.