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Abstract

This article assesses the impact of diaspora communities (defined as transnational populations that play an active role in both home and adoptive societies simultaneously) on instability and insecurity in their home countries, and contributes some preliminary thoughts on the potential for diaspora communities to contribute to peace building there. Haitian and Jamaican diasporas are presented as case studies. The article explores the nature of 'conflict' in both countries using two analytical lenses, one drawing on traditional theories of peace and conflict found in the relevant literature, and another from the views of diaspora members themselves. Taken together, the two perspectives identify a range of 'drivers' perpetuating persistent low-intensity violence, crime, and corruption in both countries. The study then identifies a variety of positive contributions that diaspora populations can and do make to their countries of origin, including through remittance flows, community-based NGOs, entrepreneurial endeavours, knowledge transfer, and political entrepreneurship. However, the study also suggests that a number of factors at the societal and national levels, such as national policy frameworks for diaspora engagement, significantly condition the extent and effectiveness of diaspora involvement. Clearly, Haiti and Jamaica's common status as small island developing states has resulted in some similarity in the two countries' diaspora experiences. Nevertheless, the unique socio-political and economic realities of each country have profoundly influenced the nature and magnitude of diaspora-home country relations. Moreover, these relations tend to be both complex in nature and ambiguous in effect, and further rigorous analysis is needed to clarify the causal relationships between each country's socio-economic stability and the activities of their respective diaspora communities. Such research will facilitate the development of more effective ways to encourage positive diaspora engagement, especially in states with a history of conflict and/or civil violence.

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