Here is an interesting fact: remittances from immigrant and diaspora communities in the United States to their countries of origin amounted to $90 billion last year. That’s about 4 times the total US foreign aid budget.

Harnessing those remittances in a more systematic way to promote development in countries of origin is just one of the themes of the Global Diaspora Forum, which kicks off in Washington, DC today.  The conference includes 500 leaders from various diaspora communities in the United States to find ways to partner with each other, with the United States Government and with businesses.

This is the second installment of the Global Diaspora Forum, which launched last year. It is a less known, but important innovation by Hillary Clinton’s State Department.  “By tapping into the experiences, energy and expertise of diaspora commutnies, we can reduce the brain drain that slows development,” said Hillary Clinton at today’s launch.

This is a smart way for the United States government to more systematically harness its comparative advantage as a country of immigrants to advance global development goals. The USA has always been a country of immigrants, so why not partner with immigrant and diaspora communities toward common goals?

The theme of this year’s meeting  “Moving Forward by Giving Back”, which the State Department says “will focus on how the U.S. Government and diaspora communities are partnering to further investment and trade, philanthropy, volunteerism, social innovation, and entrepreneurship in developing and emerging communities around the world.”  Here is the schedule of the week’s events and an interactive webcast that you can follow.

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