– preparing to host inaugural Diaspora Conference in JulyThe University of Guyana (UG) will be hosting its inaugural Diaspora Engagement Conference (DEC) next month, and one of the major highlights of the six-day event will be a proposal for the establishment of a local Diaspora Centre.The conference is expected to provide a platform for fine-tuning a strategy that will outline the way forward to establish the first Caribbean Diaspora Engagement Centre.This project is being spearheaded by UG, and according to Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith, the concept paper will be distributed and discussed at the conference, scheduled for July 23rd to 28th.Mexican Ambassador Ivan Roberto Sierra-Medel; UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith and UG official, Dr Fitzgerald Yaw at Thursday’s press conference“The idea is to enable a permanent entity that can facilitate a variety of things over time. One of the things that we’re looking to have that entity facilitate is linkages between university and the diaspora; Guyana beyond the university and the diaspora,” he stated.The Centre is expected to institutionalise engagement in research, outreach and talent management, among other things.“(It) will facilitate maintenance of a talent databank. We, for example, have Guyanese across the world, including in Antarctica, but we don’t have a central database of where the talent is, and who’s interested in doing what. One of the things we will be asking the centre to do is to manage that,” Professor Griffith said.To this end, the Vice Chancellor outlined that those discussions on the concept paper that will be held during the conference will pave the way forward in terms of both the structure and mission of the centre.He added that conversations on funding for the Diaspora Centre have already commenced with several organisations, including the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). “I don’t want to say much more than that, but it will be an opportunity for the University of Guyana to extend partnerships across Guyana and the rest of the world,” the UG Vice Chancellor stated.Professor Griffith added that other matters, such as location and directorship, will be determined down the line.In the meanwhile, it was noted that this centre will not be duplicating the function of the Diaspora Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the two will work alongside each other to create synergies.In fact, Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives at UG, Dr Fitzgerald Yaw, pointed out that the conference will be a platform for Government to talk about its own diaspora engagement strategy.“Right now, a Cabinet sub-committee is reviewing a Government of Guyana Diaspora Engagement Strategy. We had actually asked Government to officially launch that strategy at the conference… but they will definitely be talking about that Diaspora Engagement Strategy at the conference,” the UG official said.Dr Yaw further posited that with Guyana having significant political division, it is felt that such a centre at UG is a good location to have the diaspora work together towards developing this country without any political influence or interference.It is anticipated that the Diaspora Engagement Centre will be established and operational on a phased basis from September.On the other hand, the six-day conference will be held at the Ramada Princess Hotel under the theme: “Dreaming Diaspora Engagement, Doing Diaspora Engagement”. It is expected that some 150 participants from within and outside of Guyana will attend.The conference will be focused on two main overreaching pillars: human, social and entrepreneurship development; and diaspora philanthropy, diplomacy and educational engagement.At the press conference on Thursday, Vice Chancellor Griffith noted that this event will not be a traditional conference. There will be a mixture of both local and diaspora speakers, as well as presentations from politicians, businessmen and academics.“We’re spending a week doing a variety of things, only two days of which are the traditional conversations. But those conversations are not only by academics. We have businessmen, civic society, diplomats, government and political officials as part of the mix,” the Vice Chancellor noted.The academic conversations will focus on issues such as international and regional migration policies and experiences, cultural identity dynamics, financial transfers and remittances, role and contribution of hometown associations, diaspora trade and investments, and tourism.Moreover, coming out of the conference, the university is not only expecting monetary funding, but for Guyanese in the diaspora to open opportunities.“Part of it is monetary, part of it is non-monetary – its opening doors… So it’s how can diaspora Guyanese and non-Guyanese help to give not only financially, but time, talent, opening doors to help us connect, to help our students, our faculty, and help our university overall,” he stated.The conference will also feature a ‘Know Guyana Day’ with visits to several landmarks across the country, and will conclude with an investiture ceremony and a cultural extravaganza. The conference, which is the brain-child of the Vice Chancellor, has received support from the business community as well as several government ministries and agencies. The Mexican Embassy is also a major supporter of UG.Persons wanting to participate in the conference can sign up online at http//diasporaconference.uog.edu.gy/.