Nisha Desai Biswal is Assistant Administrator for the Asia Bureau
Asia is a dynamic region experiencing impressive but uneven growth while still grappling with the challenges of improved governance and sustainability. It is a region of opportunity and innovation where governments, civil society, and the private sector are increasingly partnering with international donors to tackle development challenges.
And no one is better aware of the development challenges facing Asia, nor the opportunities and innovations that can help address these challenges, than the diaspora community in the United States and around the world. Diaspora communities are becoming an increasingly important factor in helping their countries of origin, whether it be through remittances, through technical assistance, or through trade and investments via small and medium businesses.
As an Indian American, I know firsthand the important role that diaspora communities play in development. Asian countries are prominent on the Migration Policy Institute’s list of the top 15 diaspora groups. Remittances sent back home to these countries are a powerful force for development. I have seen this throughout the world, including in the town I was born in, in Gujarat, India, where much of the investment in public and private infrastructure was financed through remittances.
Asian diaspora communities tend to be close-knit, and they maintain strong ties to family and friends in their countries of origin. Their robust networks, familiarity with the culture and language, and strong interest in seeing the impact of assistance makes them especially valuable partners for us at USAID.
In USAID’s Asia Bureau, we have organized events to facilitate dialogue between the U. S. Government and Asian diaspora groups. Last year, we held events with members of the Indian and Vietnamese diasporas in the United States. The goals of these events were to listen and hear these groups’ ideas, thoughts, and concerns, and to give them information about how their tax dollars are being spent to assist their countries of origin. The events also detailed ways diaspora groups could partner with USAID, generating possible future partnerships with the U.S. Government.
We are exploring new and exciting ways to partner with Asian diaspora groups to support development efforts on the continent. For example, in Nepal, we’ve begun consultations on a Diaspora Collective Fund. The Fund will operate like a mutual fund and will direct contributions from the Nepalese diaspora into investments that will benefit the country’s development.
Moving forward, we would like to increase our work with diaspora groups and systemize this contact.
By working together, we can build on each other’s strengths and help ensure that our assistance is focused and coordinated, accelerating development and increasing the impact obtained with each taxpayer dollar.