What is a diaspora?
Diaspora means “to scatter” in Greek, but today we use the term to describe a community of people who live outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain active connections with it. A diaspora includes both emigrants and their descendants. While some people lose their attachment to their ancestral homeland, others maintain a strong connection to a place which their ancestors may have left generations ago. Many Americans come from mixed heritage and therefore can claim membership in multiple diaspora communities.
Many diaspora groups are working to achieve greater impact and a stronger voice in matters that relate to their countries of origin. Diaspora communities make vital but often unrecognized contributions to the progress of their countries of heritage. They share goals with governments, businesses, and NGOs, including:
- Broad-based economic growth;
- Thriving civil society;
- Widespread participation in good governance;
- Access to global markets for skills and financial capital;
- Robust trading partnerships;
- Growing participation in science, technology and communication innovations.
Over the last 45 years, the number of people living outside their country of origin has almost tripled – from 76 million to more than 232 million. More than 3 percent of the world’s population now lives outside of the country that they were born in; if migrants made up a single nation, they would be the 5th largest in the world.
Migration is the defining trend of our world today. Yet even as people spread father apart, technological advances have created low-cost means of communication and transportation that bind them more closely together. As The Economist notes in their article “Weaving the World Together” diasporas are now connected “instantaneously, continuously, dynamically and intimately to their communities of origin.” And as Diasporas grow, their networks expand and intertwine, linking the world together; “No other social networks offer the same global reach—or commercial opportunity.”
The United States has the largest number of global diasporas members of any country in the world; more than 62 million people are first or second generation immigrants. Indeed, virtually all Americans have immigrant roots – and these roots are a quintessential part of our national narrative. The diplomatic and developmental potential influence of diasporas is tremendous.