KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HONOURABLE
MAMADOU TANGARA MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, AND GAMBIANS ABROAD ON THE OCCASION OF THE CRC-DIASPORA INTERFACE AT THE AFRICAN PRINCESS HOTEL ON MONDAY, 10th JUNE 2019
Honourable Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow QC, Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission and JSC
Commissioners of the CRC
The Under -Secretary UN Adama Jeng
Former Vice President of The Gambia, Bakary Bunja Darboe
Former Foreign Minister Seedy Sanneh
Leaders and Representatives of the Gambian Diaspora
Distinguished Representatives of GAMCORD
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am particularly honoured and pleased to be among you this morning to speak on the issue of inclusivity of the Diaspora in the constitutional making process as well as to the important role of the Diaspora in national development.
Brothers and sisters from the Diaspora, your presence here today is of particular significance to us. It demonstrates the will and commitment to work together in building a new Constitution that will not only last a lifetime but will lay the foundation for the new Gambia built on strong institutions, democratic principles and the rule of law. It is expected that the Constitution building process will add a new impetus and hope in the revitalisation of Government-Diaspora partnership for the development of our beloved country.
Research has shown that much of the discourse on Diaspora and particularly the nexus between migration and development has evolved over the last two decades. This has resulted in a re-conceptualisation of the migration-development nexus, which has shown the important role that the Africa Diaspora has to play in development both on the Continent and in the individual countries of origin.
Indeed, the saying that the world is a global village is a truism when we examine closely how rapidly people, goods, services, ideas, and money move across borders. It is a known fact that migrants’ contribution to development both at home and in the host countries is positive in spite of some cynics that suggest otherwise. For us in the Gambia, remittances from the Diaspora constitute around 20% of our GDP, rising from about USD 206 million in 2016 to USD 227 million in 2017, according to the World Bank.
Again, it is also a known fact that while migrants bring new skills and innovative ideas and energy to their host countries, they in return come away with additional skills, ideas, and energy. As members of the Diaspora coming back with enriched skills and ideas, we as a nation look forward to the value you will add to this new constitution building process. A process that will lay the foundation for a strong constitution, law-abiding society and an economically progressive Gambia wherein the Diaspora can take advantage of and better play its role in realising its development potential.
It is the realisation of this potential that the Government of H.E. President Adama Barrow has recognised the Diaspora as the 8th Region of The Gambia. Under his administration, there are no grounds for mistrust. This is in stark contrast to the climate that prevailed under the former dispensation.
Indeed, the Government values the Diaspora as crucial players in national development. As such, the National Development Plan (NDP) heralds a new approach to effective and productive engagement and partnership between government, non-state actors and the Diaspora. A Gambia Diaspora Directorate (GDD) has been established under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate the government’s work in optimising Diaspora input and contributions to national development. For now, a Director, assisted by two members of staff, heads the division. A Diaspora strategy, which integrates practical and result-oriented Diaspora-development programs and schemes, based on global best practice, is being developed.
Another welcomed move by the Government is the recent announcement by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission that Gambians in the Diaspora will vote and be voted for in the next elections, and they will have representatives in the National Assembly. Indeed these are rights that have been denied for far too long. Without pre-empting the discussions, I can safely say, as a keen follower of the CRC, that this new development from the IEC already dovetails with the work of the CRC. The decision is a true reflection of the overwhelming views and opinions garnered during local and external consultations conducted thus far. As you discuss pertinent issues such as citizenship, fundamental rights and freedoms, and other governance issues, I would urge everyone here to remove self-interest and put the national interest first.
In promoting and fostering Government-Diaspora partnership, and in participating jointly in this constitution building process, we are hopeful that this will sow the seeds for future collaboration in other spheres of governance and public life. Such partnership should set the stage for further development through increased remittances and transfer of new ideas, knowledge and models back from the host countries. This, it is expected, will increase productivity as well as markets for greater prosperity of all Gambians.
It is important that we put in place a well-balanced constitution that is anchored on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This will maximise the contribution of the Diaspora to the social, economic and cultural development of our Country. Therefore, we must work with the Diaspora and the National Assembly to make this a reality. We owe it to our children, to generations yet unborn and to ourselves.
On a final note, I would like to wish participants in this consultation, every success in your deliberations. As the Minister responsible for Diaspora Affairs, I look forward to the outcome of this exercise, which will inform our work in the Ministry as we move to address the situation of migrants and the Diaspora both at home and in the host countries.
I wish you fruitful deliberations.
God bless you, and God bless The Gambia.
I thank you for your kind attention.