(1) appointing local migration focal points acting as connectors between the diaspora and their communities of origin;
(2) creating databases that map the impact of migration and make it easy to capture investment opportunities;
(3) listening to migrants’ voices and consulting them on local priorities, integrating their suggestions in development plans;
(4) establishing Hometown Associations that bring together local governments, local populations, internal migrants and the diaspora to collaborate on local development initiatives; and
(5) strengthening transparency and building trust between the diaspora and the local governments in the process.
I am proud to say that our experiment has yielded some very impressive results. Through the 38 Hometown Associations established so far, we have consulted Moldovan migrants from all over the world in the last two years. Together with local populations they have defined challenges and priorities, identifying and owning solutions at the local level. It is inspiring to see more than 20,000 migrants taking part in developing local socio-economic development strategies.
An example is Chiscareni village with a population of 5,000 people, where one quarter of its population resides abroad. To make sure migrants’ voices were heard, the mayor’s office held consultations online (via surveys) and offline (via various campaigns and events) to identify the most urgent local development needs and priorities. Four hundred migrants expressed their views and voted overwhelmingly for better recreational and sporting facilities in the village, especially for children. As a result, a local park was renovated and equipped, with substantial financial contributions from the diaspora.
The dedication and hard work of Moldovan migrants has translated into 250 small initiatives, including scholarships and school equipment for children from vulnerable groups, promotion of local brands and products abroad and cultural events.
Close to 9,000 migrants have contributed financially, through a crowdfunding platform, to 36 local projects, bringing better services to more than 300,000 people. Contributions reached more than US$200,000.
To increase the impact of the funds provided by migrants, we blended them with funds from the Swiss Development Cooperation and local governments.
According to the central government, the model is a success and has been institutionalized and legally framed by a government decision so it can be replicated throughout the country. So far 100 communities have expressed interest in setting up Hometown Associations outside our programme using our methodology, and 50 of these have already been established. The model is also being experimented in a handful of other countries.
The question you might ask yourself is whether these types of initiatives will really make a difference, whether the challenging migratory trends can be reversed? In the short term, probably not. In the medium to long term, if coupled with reforms, investments and other support, maybe. What we can say with certainty is that this initiative has mobilized tens of thousands of migrants for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of Moldovans back home – and that is a good start.