Inaugural Conference 

Diaspora, Sustainability, and Development: Meeting at the Nexus

September 20, 2014
SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business, 500 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC
9:00am – 5:00pm

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Conference Background

Simon Fraser University's Centre for Sustainable Community Development, Institute for Diaspora Research & Engagement, School of International Studies, and the Faculty of Environment's Development and Sustainability Program held an inaugural conference focused on the intersection of development, sustainability, and diaspora studies.

Over the past two decades the discourse and practices of international development have begun to recognize and embrace diaspora communities as key agents of change.  However, what appears to be missing in the evolving "diaspora and development" discourse is explicit concern for the environment and issues of sustainability.  Conventional discourse/text places emphasis on diaspora contributions in such areas as remittances, employment, and investment, yielding quantifiable outcomes including economic growth and poverty reduction.  But the usual focus omits the uneven economic and environmental impact of diaspora-led development on the Global South, and also in Canada.

Intersection of Development, Sustainability, & Diaspora

The three terms "development," "sustainability," and "diaspora" have too long been divided and thus developed separate ways of describing the issues, and various communities describing themselves and their work.  

At this conference therefore, we asked:

  • Is ‘diaspora-led development’ also sustainable development? 
  • What does sustainable development entail in the context of diaspora-led development? What is at stake for diaspora communities and the development interests of their communities abroad? 
  • What convergence and synergies, if any, can we see in 2014?

At the nexus of sustainable development and diaspora are profound questions of justice, social inclusion, and equity.  Julian Agyeman’s work on “Just Sustainabilities” reminds us that planning interventions in local and regional economies, food production, place-making and cultural practices among other actions must also be concerned with social and intercultural inclusion, justice and equity. Through this lens, planning, policymaking and action as diasporic agents of change become critically reflexive.

Julian Agyeman is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, Medford. He is the originator of the concept of 'just sustainabilities', the full integration of social justice and sustainability, defined as ‘the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.’

He is an environmental social scientist who thrives at the borders and intersections of a wide range of knowledges and methodologies and utilizes these in creative and original ways. His current research interests are in five broad areas, each of which critically explores some aspect(s) of the complex and embedded relations between humans and the environment, whether mediated by institutions or social movement organizations, and the effects of this on public policy and planning processes and outcomes, particularly in relation to notions of justice and equity.

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