What is Diaspora’s contribution in Kosovo?
Kosovars living abroad are estimated to be circa 800,000, which is equal to around 45% (almost half) of all citizens living in the country. Kosovo’s Diaspora is very generous; in 2015 alone, it sent over 750 million Euro (remittances) to Kosovo. This amount is about 2.5 times higher than foreign direct investments, and about 17% of the Gross Domestic Product for the same year. This money is usually used to mitigate poverty of their relatives in Kosovo; for clothes, food, building houses, cars, etc. Despite of thier contribution to Kosovo, Diaspora feels underrepresented. It needs further strengthening and opportunities to be part of decision-making processes in the country.
How are Diaspora’s money spent and how can they be spent better?
Is this the best possible way concerning spending of Diaspora’s money? Apart from fulfilling basic needs, a part of remittances and other money Diaspora saves could be channeled towards investments in the entrepreneurship sector in Kosovo – opening new businesses. This would impact the empowerment of Kosovars living within the country and would create the conditions for a more qualitative economic growth, which would reflect in decreasing unemployment that is the biggest challenge in the country. This would also present a very good chance for Diaspora; in addition to the feeling of contributing to their country, such an investment would present an ideal opportunity for favorable return from investments. It is crucial that the decision to invest in Kosovo is driven by rational business reasoning and not emotional impulse.
How should Kosovo approach Diaspora?
Diaspora should not be seen solely as financing resource, but also as a development partner and participant in the decision-making process. As a key contributor, Diaspora should be given bigger space and to enable it to be part of various state building processes. A very important issue for them is the issue of representation in the Kosovo Assembly. Croatia and France, which allocate 3-4% of the national assembly seats for diaspora representatives, could serve as examples for Kosovo to implement a similar practice. Kosovo’s Ministry of Diaspora has proposed allocation of seats for Diaspora, but this has yet to be implemented. Government of Kosovo should treat Diaspora with a special care and create favorable conditions to be a part of these processes.
What is being done and what more can be done for the Diaspora?
How can tangible results be achieved in this regard? There have been some initiatives taken recently by civil society. DiasporaFlet.org was launched in November and provides a platform for networking between Albanian Diaspora organization, listening to their needs and expressing opinions. In addition, the Albanian Diaspora businesses network has been created. During the frequent contact with Diaspora members, an extraordinary huge interest for engagement was noticed. Their vast majority are interested in contributing through donations in various sectors in Kosovo. However, it remains to have better conditions created to open business so both parties can benefit – investors (Diaspora) and Kosovars within the country, namely to create a win-win plan. By playing this role, it is thought to achieve a bigger empowerment of Diaspora in a near future, and the country to benefit more.
Diaspora members may or may not plan to return to their homeland; however, one thing is sure, they all want to help their country of birth in creating positive changes, either through remittances, investments, exchange of skills and experiences, etc. Kosovo has a very qualified Diaspora living worldwide and creation of mechanisms for contributing to the birthplace would help a lot the increase of prosperity in the country. Including Diaspora in policy making, utilizing their skills and experiences would play a key role to the needed changes for the benefit of the country.
What initiatives could be taken to enable Diaspora contributing more in Kosovo in the short-term period?
What could be done in this regard? There are many ways for Diaspora engagement; we are mentioning some concrete ones: creation of conditions to start businesses that would bring together local entrepreneurs with co-finances from Diaspora; creation of diverse programs (e.g. doctors) to help local institutions; bringing academics to Kosovo to lecture/work as part of the efforts for “brain gain” to Kosovo; creation of groups for professionals networking who operate abroad and within Kosovo. These are only few options, whereas the opportunities to utilize the Diaspora potential in function of developing the country are bigger than this. Kosovars are very proud of Diaspora and the successes they achieved in the countries where they live, in diverse areas: art, music, sports, etc. Thus, more should be done to utilize these in Kosovo’s benefit.
Who should be the key players to lead these changes? No doubts, the biggest role in this aspect falls with the Government of Kosovo, Ministry of Diaspora in particular as the responsible body for listening to the Diaspora demands and recommend to the Government on necessary changes in respective ministries. Additionally, the Civil Society Organizations in the motherland as well as Diaspora should play an important role.