Global Governance and Diasporas: the Case of African Migrants in the USA
In 2013, the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences began a study of black communities in the USA. By now, the research was conducted in six states (Alabama, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania); in a number of towns as well as in the cities of Boston, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The study shows that diasporas as network communities have already formed among recent migrants from many African countries in the US. These are diasporas of immigrants from individual countries; not a single “African diaspora”.
On the one hand, diasporas as an important phenomenon of globalization should become objects of global governance by means of regulation at the transnational level of both migration streams and foreign-born communities norms of existence. On the other hand, diasporas can be agents of social and political global governance, of essentially transnational impact on individual societies and states, migrant sending as well as accepting. The evidence on the African diasporas in the USA confirm these arguments.
Most American Africans believe that diasporas must and can take active part in the home countries’ public life. However, the majority of them concentrates on targeted assistance to certain people – their loved ones back home. The forms of this assistance are diverse, but the main of them is sending remittances. At the same time, the money received from migrants by specific people makes impact on the whole society and state. For many African states these remittances form a significant part of national income. The migrants’ remittances allow the states to lower the level of social tension. Simultaneously, they have to be especially thorough while building relationships with the migrant accepting countries and with diasporas themselves.
Africans constitute an absolute minority among recent migrants in the USA. Nevertheless, directly or indirectly, they exert a certain influence on the establishment of the principles of social life and state politics (home and foreign) of not only native countries but also of the accepting one, the US. This confirms the argument that elaboration of norms and setting the rules of global governance is the business of not only political actors but of the globalizing civil society, its institutions and organizations either. The most recent example of this is public debates in the American establishment, including President Obama, on the problem of immigration policy and relationships with migrant sending states provoked by the 2014 US–Africa Leaders Summit. Remarkably, the African diasporas, in the persons of their leaders, actively joined the discussion and openly declared that the state pays insufficiently little attention to the migrants’ needs and insisted on taking their position into account while planning immigration reform.
However, Africans are becoming increasingly less “invisible” in the American society not only in connection with loud but infrequent specific events. Not a few educated Africans who have managed to achieve a decent social status and financial position for themselves, have a desire to promote not just the adaptation of migrants from Africa, but to make their collective voice heard in American society and the state at the local and national levels. Their efforts take different forms but most often they result in establishing and running of various organizations of the diaspora. These associations become new cells of American civil society and in this capacity affect the society itself, and the institutions of government best of their ability.
Thus, the evidence on Africans in the USA shows that diasporas are both objects (to date, mainly potential) and real subjects of global governance. They influence public life, home and foreign policy of the migrant sending African countries and of migrant accepting United States, make a modest but undeniable contribution to the principles and mechanisms of management of global phenomena and processes.