From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Diaspora Affairs Director Makes Presentation At Peace Building Conference In New York
By Written by Elizabeth Foray : Information Attache : Sierra Leone Mission to the UN
May 9, 2009, 18:06

Permanent Mission of the Republic of
Sierra Leone to the United Nations
245 East 49th Street,
New York, New York 10017


UNITED  NATIONS: Sierra Leone’s Diaspora Affairs Director Makes Presentation At Peace Building Conference In New York.

The Director of Sierra Leone’s phenomenal Office of Diaspora Affairs, on Tuesday 28th April 2009, delivered a sound paper on the peace-building initiatives on the country’s agenda at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

During his 30-minute power point presentation Dr. Michel Sho-Sawyer who had jetted in late on Monday (Sierra Leone’s 48th Independence Anniversary Day), catalogued a series of achievements scored by the country starting with the peaceful and democratic council and national elections conducted between 2002 and 2008.

He mentioned the TRC reparation recommendations, the restructuring of the national army, secret and regular police, and other democratic institutions as some of the landmarks for a peaceful environment.

Dr. Sho-Sawyer highlighted the primary challenges in the implementation of many of the existing strategies formulated by government among which he said political will and limited financial and human capacity were key. In addition he said poor state of infrastructural services like electricity, water and roads compounded the challenges in enhancing Diaspora confidence in consolidating the peace.

After giving an overview of the goals of the office of Diaspora Affairs –an institution that was set up in the new political dispensation to help realize the goals of President Ernest Bai Koroma in re-branding the battered image of Sierra Leone and to boost the economy –he dilated on the role of Diaspora in Sierra Leone’s peace building process. The director underscored the importance of expatriate skilled manpower as a means of risk reduction and peace consolidation.

He also said Diaspora help to maintain families, strengthen social and economic ties and use Information and communication Technology as a positive sensitization tool. To this end he went on, his office is engaged in assessing the demands and resources of Diaspora organizations and individuals, and the contributions they can make towards peace building. He said his office was helping to facilitate the flow of information and is also collaborating with other state partners in strategizing for Diaspora Experts to be incorporated in capacity building processes.

There was a cross-section of participants drawn from post-conflict countries around the world to share their experiences and map a way forward for Diaspora contribution for global peace. Liberians expressed satisfaction over the Sierra Leone expose and looked forward to drawing an informed inspiration.

Dr. Sho-Sawyer Talks About The Conference on Peacebuilding and Diaspora

The Director of the office of Diaspora Affairs in Freetown, Dr. Michel Sho-Sawyer was on Tuesday attending a conference on Peace building and the Role of Diaspora at the United Nations in New York. After the conference, the participant came to the offices of the Sierra Leone Mission to the United Nations in New York and responded to the following questions:

Q.1.  The office of the Diaspora is a new phenomenon in Sierra Leone and like a newborn baby, needs maximum attention. What significance does this conference have that you should leave your work back there to attend just a two-day interaction?
Well the conference was on Peace building and the role of Diaspora and as you may know Sierra Leone was one of the countries chosen by the United Nations as a peace building country model. To this end, my participation was vital. The seminar focus was on how the input of the Diaspora helps in peace-building. With the creation of the Diaspora Unit in the office of the President and its success thus far I was invited to give a presentation on what we are doing, our strategies and mechanism on how Sierra Leoneans abroad can help in the peace-building effort.

Q.2. Did you gain new perspectives in Peace Building initiatives? What were you able to add to your already rich knowledge on the Institutional Support for Diaspora Engagement in Reconstruction and Capacity Building?
Well we do have a very strong program in Sierra Leone but I realized that there are many other areas, which are more complicated like the issue of remittances; how do we formalise the money remitted home? How do we build the private sector with the remitted funds and how can we channel it for developmental purposes? I believe I will go back home with more questions than answers but we have been provided with the basis to do further research on this vast subject.

Q.3. How is your participation in this conference going to benefit Sierra Leone as a nation?
Well whenever we are out of the country we appear as change agents, meaning we follow the suit of His Excellency the President; we make sure we sell Sierra Leone and focus on re-branding the image. Secondly with as powerful presentation as was given from Sierra Leone which I will credit to the staff at the Office in Sierra Leone for working hard in putting it together, we were able to succeed in showing other countries that Sierra Leone is far ahead in our developmental processes which will go a long way in rebranding the image.

Q.4. Can you share with your compatriots and friends of Sierra Leone what positive changes you see taking place in the next three years through the agenda of the Diaspora Office?
Well as it is now, the office is working very hard to fill critical capacity need in the country. Sierra Leone lost 30-35 % of most of its highly educated/skilled professionals and the office is working hard on attracting them back. The office is also working on building the Confidence of Diasporas to return home to open businesses, invest in Sierra Leone and invest in the development process. In the near future or within the next three years, we plan to open Sierra Leone Community banks, Credit Unions, Mortgage Facilities, Cashless transfer and so forth from the Diaspora office.

Q.5. Is there any special message you will like to share with Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora?
My message will be for us as Sierra Leoneans to focus on building our nation; for us to set aside all our many differences and focus on the President’s Agenda for Change. Sierra Leone needs all her citizen to come onboard to help in her development process. We need to stop the politics and focus on consolidating peace and enhancing our infrastructure.

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