Last month, after I had posted a picture of a Chinese pavilion on my Facebook page, an unknown person sent me a message asking me if I was in Taiwan. He recognized the pavilion and knew I took the photo in the Jieshou Park in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. This person turned out to be a Curaçaoan (a Yu di Kòrsou (YDK) as we refer to ourselves in our language Papiamentu) living in Taiwan. He, together with three more YDKs wanted to meet with me to chat about our island. They were very interested in Curaçao politics, and I felt they were eager to talk to me about some good ideas they had for our island. Unfortunately I had already left Taiwan and was in Vietnam for an assigment. Via social media we maintained contact and I asked him how he felt about getting our diaspora organized in order for meaningful contacts among the diaspora and between the diaspora and the mother country. This idea got met with a lot of enthusiasm.
Before getting to that point, the word diaspora comes from the Greek language. ‘Dia’ meaning all over and ‘sporius’ meaning dispersed. In every day language, diaspora means the community of migrants of a particular country living (permanently) in other countries while aware of their identity and maintaining some kind of connection with the country of origin. The idea of diaspora is not new and a handful of countries, some of them for many centuries, have made good use of their people living abroad. There is a growing awareness among countries new to this concept, that the diaspora is a treasured resource. Input from the diaspora means ideas, innovation, investments and global networks not available at home. Fact is that in the case Curaçao our diaspora can be an important bridge to knowledge, expertise, innovation beyond what is available via the Kingdom diplomatic missions which, as I have mentioned many times before are not even focused on our island even when they should be. Diaspora means especially ‘brain regain’ and ‘brain exchange’. Fact is that many of our graduates and brain power live abroad. The message we need to send to our YDKs living abroad and the ones planning to leave the country, is that emigration does not have to be final in the sense of severing ties with Curaçao. We have to realize that many of our emigrants are not coming back because they can’t or simply don’t want to. That is fine with me. In any case we should not try to make them out as some kind of monsters for not returning to our island. Especially our politicians like to play this blaming game. I know, because I witnessed a session in 2007 with students from Curaçao at the Erasmus University where a colleague of mine referred to some students as ‘money mongers” for not wanting to return. We must call on YDKs in the diaspora to help to promote and protect the Brand Curaçao. The very notion of the concept of a nation is being redefined. Because of globalization and interconnectedness today the nation is no longer bounded by our 444 square kilometers of territory. We have according to some sources more than half of our population living outside of Curaçao. We need the input of the Curaçao diaspora in order to realize our potential. In order to achieve this we need a diaspora policy in place. In 2012 I dedicated a chapter of the PAIS (the political party I used to head) program on diaspora. In 2013 I wrote a paper on this matter for a meeting between the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Netherlands, but there was not enough interest to pursue this initiative. Not having had success then, I am trying another approach. We will not wait on policy, but will take it to the social media to get our diaspora organized. A dedicated Facebook page: ‘Curaçao Diaspora’ will be launched. This must be seen as a first step. It is important that we know where we have YDKs, what they do, what their talens are, how they are connected in their places of residence, what their interests are, and how they want to contribute to our development. We could in the future think about having conferences, papers and a list of priorities such as diversity, democracy, human rights, environment, food and water security and of course economics. Hopefully along the way a policy on diaspora will emerge. In no way I want to have any kind of monopoly in this process. Let’s hope it grows. Let’s hope we all feel like the owners of this initiative. Let’s do it for the the Curaçao Brand. I am convinced this could be the start of something wonderful. Thank you YDKs in Taiwan.