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Diasporas scientifiques

 | 
Rémi Barré
, 
Valeria Hernández
, 
Jean-Baptiste Meyer
, 
et al.

English Version

Introduction

Texte intégral

1This report is the outcome of a collegial expertise survey on «scientific and technical diasporas» conducted following a request by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement). It addresses the following question:

2How can developing countries (DCS) benefit, for national development, from their expatriate scientists and engineers?

3In February 2001, the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, IRD and other interested parties held a workshop where the terms of the question were discussed and defined in detail. Throughout the preparatory work and the survey, other organisations were encountered who found the question relevant to their concerns and decided to become involved in monitoring and directing the exercise by joining the steering committee (see list in Appendix 3).

4All agreed from the outset that the question should be posed in connection with the idea of a «scientific and technological (S&T) diaspora». This form of self-organised network of expatriates from Southern countries working for the scientific and technological development of their home countries, appeared to be central to the question.

5Those involved in the survey therefore felt it should examine the hypothesis of a policy of supporting S&T diasporas, and that this was the best way to address the question posed, for both theoretical and practical reasons.

6To shed light on the «diaspora option» as a possible government policy, the panel of experts therefore considered how to define S&T diasporas, what they actually are, the forms they take and the extent of the phenomenon, factors affecting their functioning and the conditions under which official support for their actions from home country and host country governments might be useful.

7Given the paucity of information available to carry out its mission (see section Validity limits below), the panel carried out a number of case studies of S&T diasporas and specific cross-cutting analyses (e.g. Statistical analyses or surveys on the use of information technology).

8Based on this material, some of it original, the panel drew up a synopsis on the question.

9In Point One of the synopsis we look at the numbers of highly skilled migrants and consider the phenomenon in the context of the international circulation of skills and trends in scientific and technical co-operation. This leads us to consider S&T diasporas as a central form of organisation for the issue at hand.

10In Point Two we analyse actual S&T diasporas to see what organisational forms they adopt and how this affects their activities and their relations with host countries and home countries.

11In Point Three we examine what instruments can be used to benefit from expatriate potential in the S&T diasporas.

12In Point Four, we describe the «diaspora option» and make a number of recommendations.

13This synopsis (Part One of the report) is followed by chapters by individual experts (Part Two of the report on CD-ROM) and the data and appendices (various documents, useful information, bibliographies, lists of networks, links and Web sites, etc.) That informed the panel's work (Part Three of the report).

  • 1 ZSP countries: Lebanon, Autonomous Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Sout (...)

14The report is mainly intended for national and provincial government authorities, international and intergovernmental organisations, and civil society organisations and networks. It focuses particularly on the case of France and its Zone de Solidarité Prioritaire (ZSP: countries, mainly in Africa, with which France has more sustained development co-operation links1).

DÉFINITIONS

15The question this report seeks to answer is not a simple one. Indeed the very question of diasporas is a subject of controversy among experts. This point will be addressed in Point One, in the section entitled Policies that seek to regulate migration.... So it is especially important to define from the outset the concepts we will be using throughout the synopsis.

16To define the limits of their survey, the panel agreed on the following definitions:

  • Expatriates: people living permanently or for a period of years outside their home country, regardless of any links there may be between them.
  • Diaspora: a self-organised group of expatriates.
  • Scientific and technical diasporas (S&T diasporas): all self-organised communities of expatriate scientists and engineers working to develop their home country or region, mainly in science, technology and higher education. Synonyms include «knowledge diaspora», «intellectual diaspora» and «highly skilled diaspora».
  • Diaspora network: self-organised group consisting mainly of expatriates, identified as such and with a name and an organisational structure. They may include people who are not expatriates. These networks may be concerned with trade and other issues that extend beyond the activities directly addressed by this report.
  • The diaspora option, or S&T diaspora support: public action to mobilise S&T diasporas for development purposes, as distinct from other migration policy options or development co-operation options.

VALIDITY LIMITS

17A collegial expertise survey is in principle an assessment of the state of current academic knowledge, drawn up at a given moment to inform decision-making. In the present case, current knowledge on the subject is very incomplete and the certified published literature does not provide a direct answer to the questions posed. Furthermore, the data on expatriate populations found in different statistical systems are hard to compare, so the empirical knowledge base is notoriously limited. The state of knowledge and documentation on many of the aspects considered is inadequate.

18The panel partly made up for the paucity of information by direct observation and by specific analyses conducted for the purposes of the survey. For example, a systematic search of diaspora networks via the Web identified 200 such networks, 79 of which supplied enough information for the experts to analyse for the survey. Information is particularly lacking on the results and effects of the S&T diasporas' activities. This is partly because these groups are a recent phenomenon and there is no monitoring system. A paragraph in our recommendations specifically addresses these limitations of our survey.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

19The panel of experts is very grateful to Pr Pierre Tripier and Gérard Moreau, whose close and careful reading of the first draft of the report appeared to be particularly valuable for their reflection in the last times and their work in common.

Notes

1 ZSP countries: Lebanon, Autonomous Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Angola, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, DR of the Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Chad, Togo, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Surinam, Vanuatu.

© IRD Éditions, 2003

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