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    Government pursues opportunities in Asia through expats

    Friday, May 28th, 2010

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin is in Asia this week, and has issued a press release focusing on several outgrowths of the Global Irish Economic Forum held at Farmleigh in September.

    Martin attended the first meeting of Asian-based members of the Global Irish Network at Expo Shanghai; the network was announced at the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh and prior meetings were held in Britain, France, Germany and the UAE.

    At that meeting, Martin has announced funding of €135,000 towards a new Farmleigh Fellowship Programme, which provides 25 Irish participants the opportunity to work in Asia for four months, and to participate in a joint MSc degree in Asian Business Management from UCC and Nanyang Business School in Singapore.   The project was developed by a number of Singapore-based businesspeople who were present at the Global Irish Economic Forum, and was a response to the focus placed at that meeting on the need for Irish businesses to increase their access to Asian markets  It will begin in October 2010.  An overseas graduate placement programme, a separate initiative, is also being planned.

    Martin also announced funding under the Emigrant Support Programme for several Asian-based organisations:

    • Ireland-Japan Chamber of Commerce (c. €12,000), which is dedicated to fostering business links between Ireland and Japan
    • the Irish Network China (c. €1,100), a Beijing-based organisation fostering cultural, social, and business links between Ireland and China
    • Le Chéile, Shanghai (c. €5,597), a social and educational group for Irish emigrants and the Irish diaspora in China, founded 2008.

    See the press release on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

    Regional, youth Farmleighs to follow Global Irish Economic Forum

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has released the “Progress Report on Follow-up to The Global Irish Economic Forum”. The report outlines a number of initiatives that have been undertaken following the Global Irish Economic Forum, which was held at Farmleigh in September 2009.  The forum had two aims: first, to explore how the Irish abroad could contribute to economic recovery, and second, to examine ways in which Ireland and its global community could develop a more strategic relationship with each other.

    While the Forum has in the past few months occasionally been criticised in the media as a talking shop, it’s clear the government is trying to demonstrate the impact of the event on its economic strategy. The report include specific projects in the areas of diaspora engagement,  economic policy, culture, innovation, tourism, greentech, international financial services, and agriculture and food. Among the ideas on diaspora engagement are:

    • Global Irish Network – This network of 300 people in 37 countries was launched and held its first meeting on 4 February. The network is intended to serve as a resource for the Government in promoting Ireland’s economic, cultural and tourism messages in key markets.
    • Regional “Farmleighs” – Meetings in a number of countries with visiting members will take place in 2010.
    • Supporting business and technology networks – The Government has funded the Irish Technology Leadership Group in Silicon Valley with $251,000; Craig Barrett has been appointed the new chair of the ITLG. An Irish Innovation Centre is due to open in California “in the first quarter of 2010″.
    • Farmleigh Overseas Graduate Programme – The Government is working to establish a programme to facilitate up to 500 graduate placesments abroad; the initial focus will be in Asia.
    • Youth Forum for the Global Irish – The DFA is working with the Ireland Funds to convene a Forum in June 2010 for 100 younger members of the global Irish community.
    • Gateway Ireland – John McColgan of Riverdance is moving this private-sector initiative forward, aimed at creating “a new high-quality Irish portal website”.
    • Diaspora Bond – The Government is examining the feasiblity of extending the National Solidarity Bond, announced in Budget 2010, to non-Irish residents.
    • Local Diaspora Strategies – Each Irish embassy is producing a strategy aimed at supporting and enhancing engagement with the local Irish community.

    There are more proposals under the aforementioned other subheadings.  Some of the ideas that are under development include:

    • The New Irish centre in New York, toward which the Irish government has pledged 2.3 million euro
    • A new performing arts university, which is in the exploratory phase
    • Efforts to maximise the tourism potential of online access to genealogy records
    • A new strategy for Asia and emerging markets
    • The development of “Food and Drink Diaspora” network by Bord Bia
    • The maintenance of investment in research and development in Budget 2010
    • The development of proposals by the Innovation Task Force to address issues raised at Farmleigh.

    As someone who’s been studying Ireland’s engagement with its diaspora for years, it’s clear to me that we’ve entered a new era in our relationship with the Irish abroad.

    Some of these ideas might be a hard sell (diaspora bonds, anyone?), but even more important than the new initiatives are the enhanced desire for engagement by the Irish government.  Recent years have seen extraordinary changes and an increasingly sophisticated relationship developing between Ireland and our diaspora. Part of this has been influenced by changing trends in global diaspora strategies, much of it by Ireland’s peculiar circumstances. It will be exciting to see how this relationship grows, and particularly how the Irish diaspora will respond to this increasing outreach.

    See the entire report at the GlobalIrishForum website.

    Related pages on GlobalIrish.ie:

    NY to get Irish Arts Center with €2.3 million grant

    Monday, December 7th, 2009

    New York will get a major new Irish landmark, with the announcement today that Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has granted€2.3 million for the construction of an Irish Arts Centre in Manhattan.

    The press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs said:

    The Minister said one of the main themes to emerge from the attendees at the Global Irish Economic Forum was the importance of Irish Culture to the image of this country abroad and in particular in the USA. He noted that this was also an important conclusion of the Strategic Review of Ireland US Relations, published by the Taoiseach last March. Minister Martin said he was extremely impressed by the arguments made at Farmleigh by members of the business and cultural sectors alike.

    Announcing the grant from the Emigrant Support Programme managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Minister said:

    “The allocation of such significant funding is a clear demonstration of the Government’s strong commitment to the building of the new Irish Arts Centre in New York. This funding is a response to the extraordinary gesture of the City of New York in making a site, valued at $12 million available for the project, along with a further $8 million in capital funding.

    The construction of the New York Irish Arts Centre is identified as a priority in the revised Programme for Government and I would like to pay tribute to Minister Martin Cullen for his longstanding support and commitment to the project.

    The new Centre will project a dynamic image of Ireland and Irish America across the US; it will facilitate extensive Irish-related cultural, business and community programmes; will showcase quality contemporary Irish theatre and art; and will also provide an invaluable resource for the Irish emigrant community in the US?.

    The Minister paid warm tribute to New York City Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn for their exceptional support for the initiative. He also thanked Gabriel Byrne for his support for the Arts Centre and for his longstanding work in promoting Irish culture throughout the US.

    Minister Martin said that this major initiative demonstrates how seriously the Government views the outcome of the Farmleigh Forum:

    “Everybody at Farmleigh said that the success of the Conference could only be judged by the quality of the follow up. Today I have begun to demonstrate that despite the difficult budgetary situation, we are determined to continue investing in our unique resource- the Irish Diaspora and its cultural heritage.

    This is just the beginning and I will be making further announcements in the New Year.

    Other ideas which are being actively progressed include: a new Global Irish Network; the establishment of an Irish innovation centre in Silicon Valley; the Gateway Ireland portal, which would serve as a key online focus for promoting Ireland abroad and engaging with our global community; expanded educational exchange and scholarship programmes to increase engagement with younger generations; and a new Farmleigh Overseas Graduate Programme. I am aware that a number of other Departments are also taking forward initiatives suggested at Farmleigh. I am similarly encouraged by the fact that significant work has already been undertaken by participants themselves on a number of projects that are more suitably advanced by the private sector. These will have the support of the Government.?

    He pointed out that at its meeting on 13 October, the Government considered a comprehensive report prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Management Institute. The full report contains a detailed list of the main themes and specific proposals to emerge and is available on (www.dfa.ie and www.globalirishforum.ie).

    The Government has also established a new inter-Departmental Committee, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Taoiseach, to consider the proposals and monitor progress across Departments. The Committee has already begun its work and will report to Government in the New Year.

    The Minister emphasised that the Government is absolutely committed to engagement with the Irish Diaspora across all regions and all sectors:

    “Through the Emigrant Support Programme, we will continue to offer support to all sections of our Diaspora. In addition to the increased economic element to our work arising from the recent Forum, I am determined to ensure that we continue to attach a high priority to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable members of the Irish abroad.?

    Work starts on Global Irish Economic Forum idea

    Monday, December 7th, 2009

    One idea from the Global Irish Economic Forum has apparently been initiated by Gibralter-based businessman Dermot Desmond. The Irish Times reported over the weekend that Desmond had invited over 160 high-profile people from the arts, business and academia to give inputs into the formation of a global university for the arts.

    The idea behind the university is to leverage one of Ireland’s greatest advantages – our cultural heritage – into a driver for economic development.

    The Irish Times listed those invited to participate:

    They include musicians Bono and U2, Enya, The Corrs and Van Morrison; Hollywood actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson; film directors Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan; and writers Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle and Sebastian Barry.

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has also been asked to participate in the project. Among the business figures invited to submit ideas are telecoms and media entrepreneur Denis O’Brien, former Intel chief executive Craig Barrett, and Gary McGann, chief executive of packaging group Smurfit Kappa.

    It looks as if the closed-door policy of the Global Irish Economic Forum will continue, as these high-profile participants are being invited to discuss the project on a private website.

    We eagerly await news of the other projects to follow. The only other one that I am aware the government says it is enacting is a network for high-level professionals among the Irish abroad, but no doubt there will be more.

    Related websites:

    Global Economic Forum East – China turns to its diaspora

    Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
    China is the latest country to announce that it wil turn to its diaspora for assistance with economic strategy and global networking.
    The first World Chinese Economic Forum will be held in Malaysia on November 16 and 17, themed “Building Business Linkages, Charting New Frontiers”. It is aimed at leaders in government, professional bodies, educational institutions and think tanks, as well as entrepreneurs, professionals and investors from  around the globe, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK, France, Switzerland, Pakistan and China.
    Among the organisers are the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, a non-profit independent think tank in Malaysia focusing on international business partnerships, leadership, strategic thinking, and public policy studies.
    The sessions look fascinating, exploring entrepreneurship, sustainable development, financing, real estate, and regional and global development. One talk is entitled “China and ASEAN (Association of Southeasat Asian Nations) – Partnering for an Asian Century”.
    Among the more interesting diaspora-related panels:
    “Leveraging on the World Chinese Muslim Network – building a new silk route from The Middle East to China”. Focusing on the tens of millions of Chinese Muslims in China, throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
    “The Chinese Diaspora Worldwide – Entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility: Key challenges ahead”. Examining the role of the Chinese diaspora in the economic development of other nations and wayst to channel that energy for maximum social benefit.
    “Global Chinese Entrepreneurship – the rise of young Taipans”. Focusing on the younger entrepreneurs, both chinese-born and from the second generation.
    With so many emerging efforts to engage the diasporas of various nations around the world, it’s good that Ireland has been upping its game in this respect. Our huge diaspora gives us a head start in engaging with our citizens abroad, but Unlike the Global Irish Economic Forum, which was overly restricted in being limited to only 180 participants, this one is open to anyone willing to part with the $800 registration fee.
    http://www.swinburne.edu.au/business/documents/news/world-chinese-economic-forum-2009.pdf

    China is the latest country that it will turn to its diaspora for assistance with economic strategy and global networking.  The first World Chinese Economic Forum will be held in Malaysia on November 16 and 17, themed “Building Business Linkages, Charting New Frontiers”.

    It is aimed at leaders in government, professional bodies, educational institutions and think tanks, as well as entrepreneurs, professionals and investors from  around the globe, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK, France, Switzerland, Pakistan and China.

    Among the organisers are the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, a non-profit independent think tank in Malaysia focusing on international business partnerships, leadership, strategic thinking, and public policy studies.

    The sessions look dynamic and practical, exploring entrepreneurship, sustainable development, financing, real estate, and regional and global development. One talk is entitled “China and ASEAN (Association of Southeasat Asian Nations) – Partnering for an Asian Century”.

    Among the more interesting diaspora-related panels:

    • “Leveraging on the World Chinese Muslim Network – building a new silk route from The Middle East to China”. Focusing on the tens of millions of Chinese Muslims in China, throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
    • “The Chinese Diaspora Worldwide – Entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility: Key challenges ahead”. Examining the role of the Chinese diaspora in the economic development of other nations and ways to channel that energy for maximum social benefit.
    • “Global Chinese Entrepreneurship – the rise of young Taipans”. Focusing on the younger entrepreneurs, both Chinese-born and from the second generation.

    With so many emerging efforts to engage the diasporas of various nations around the world, it’s good that Ireland has been upping its game in this respect. Our huge diaspora gives us a head start in engaging with our citizens abroad, and we have numerous local, regional and industry-based networks aimed at assisting the Irish at home and abroad in maximising their business efforts – but it’s clear that we are not alone in our ability to galvanise a global force of entrepreneurs and investors for our national economic benefit. And with the size of the global Chinese community estimated at between 30 and 120 million, a strong network will have a powerful impact.

    Unlike the Global Irish Economic Forum, which was overly restricted in being limited to only 180 participants, this one is open to anyone willing to part with the $800 registration fee.  Perhaps some of our global Irish entrepreneurs with Chinese and Asian links might be interested in attending – and with the Chinese and Irish diasporas being two of the world’s largest, joint networking could mean profound mutual benefits around the globe and at home.

    Download the World Chinese Economic Forum brochure.

    Global Irish Economic Forum: a report

    Monday, September 21st, 2009

    This is my report on the Global Irish Economic Forum that I wrote up for Liam Ferrie’s Irish Emigrant news service, which is at www.emigrant.ie. (The news is published in two print editions in New York and Boston as well.) Liam Ferrie, of course, is the tirelessly committed granddaddy of all Internet outreach to the Irish abroad, having published the Irish Emigrant newsletter since 1987 – the longest-running online source of national news in the world. Respect.

    Ireland goes global for help in crisis

    By Noreen Bowden (for Irish Emigrant)

    The Irish government opened a new chapter in its relationship with the Diaspora this weekend, as it gathered 180 leading figures from the worlds of business, technology, philanthropy, and culture and asked them for help in solving the current economic crisis. The Global Irish Economic Forum, hosted by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin, took place on Friday and Saturday at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park. It consisted of a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions aimed at coming up with concrete solutions for economic growth. Among the proposals that emerged were a website for the diaspora, a university of performing arts, and enhanced educational travel programmes for young people.

    Minister Martin said that he believed the event had achieved what it had set out to do, which was twofold: to identify “a range of ideas to help address the economic challenges that confront us?; and also to take “an important step toward establishing a new, more dynamic relationship between Ireland and its diaspora.” He also announced his intention to form “a new global Irish network made up of those in attendance and other highly influential members of our global community”.

    The forum, organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs, was the brainchild of economist David McWilliams, whose last book had focused on his belief that the talents of the Irish abroad could be harnessed to play a key role in Ireland’s future. McWilliams said that he planned for the conference to produce five coherent proposals to the government for economic development. While most of those assembled were successful businessmen (only about 20 women were among those invited), it was culture that, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as Ireland’s proposed economic weapon.

    Digicel chief executive Denis O’Brien told the closing session of the forum that Ireland’s culture was what the nation could use to connect with its diaspora of 70 million people. “Culture is everything”, O’Brien said, “the fact that we have such a strong culture as a country really gives us one of the big advantages of any nation in the world.”

    International Investment and Underwriting chair Dermot Desmond, echoing O’Brien’s comments about the richness of Irish literature, drama and music, asked, “How can we monetise our culture?” The answer, he said, was to build “the greatest university in the world for the performing arts”.

    There were several other ideas revealed in the course of the closing session. One was a website that would showcase Irish culture and arts to the world, while serving as a connecting point to the diaspora. Another was enhanced educational travel opportunities for young people, modeled after the Birthright Israel programmes, aimed at strengthening Irish identity and connections through structured trips to Ireland. The idea of selling bonds to the diaspora was also introduced; the bonds, inspired by a popular Israeli programme, would be used to finance diaspora-related projects. While several participants spoke of Israel’s approach to its diaspora as a model, Minister Martin seemed hesitant to agree, saying that there were reasons specific to Israel’s situation that made its solutions work for them. “We’re not in the Israeli space”, he said.

    Several speakers spoke of a need to “up our game”, to ratchet up the level of outreach and activities for the Irish abroad.  As American Ireland Fund philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman commented, “We have to get to the next level, which is the business level, and capitalise on what we have already”.

    Those in attendance included luminaries in the fields of business, philanthropy, the arts, and academia, living in Ireland and around the world. Among the top business executives were retired Intel Chief Executive Craig Barrett; Dr Pearse Lyons, Alltech Inc, KY; Conrad Burke, Innovalight in CA; Fred Combe, Natus Pte Ltd, Singapore; John Hartnett, G24 Innovations, Wales; Kevin Melia, Vette Corporation, MA; and HSBC North America Chief Executive Brendan McDonagh.

    Singer Bob Geldof, Riverdance producers Moya Doherty and John McColgan, and filmmaker Neil Jordan were among those representing the arts. Academics present included Fr Joe McShane, the president of New York’s Fordham University; Prof. Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Director, University of California System-wide Biotech Program; and Dr Louise Richardson of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Several Irish politicians and the heads of many Irish state agencies also attended.

    The geographic range was widespread; while many came from the US and Britain, the rest of the world was well-represented. Among those who came from less typical locales were PCS founder Liam O’Keeffe-Ayudhkij, who came from Thailand; Southern Cross publisher Guillermo MacLoughlin Breard, who attended from Argentina; and Malaysian-Irish Business Network founder Leslie Eu flew in from Malaysia.

    One of the biggest challenges facing the organisers was surely determining the guest list. With a diaspora of 70 million people, how to choose fewer than 200 to invite? “I don’t believe there were many who would have refused an invitation”, said Avril Conroy, a BP executive living in Russia, “and there were probably a lot more who would have loved an invitation in the end. Maybe the solution is 1,000 of us sitting in a room. But people have to be willing to give and to take action.”

    Most of the event was closed to the media, with only Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s keynote opening address and the concluding panel session open to reporters. The forum employed Chatham House Rules, which dictated that no statement from the closed sessions could be quoted; this may have ensured a frank exchange of ideas in the sessions but frustrated reporters who were eager for some hard stories to emerge. It is likely that the event will be more highly regarded abroad than it is within Ireland.

    Feedback from participants suggested that former Intel Chief Executive Craig Barrett, a keynote speaker at the opening plenary, had presented a significant challenge to the government with harsh criticism on Ireland’s level of education and investment in research and development. Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen had also reportedly been an impassioned speaker, defending the arts and culture sector against proposed cuts in the recent An Bord Snip report. Several attendees noted that the discussions did not steer away from critical assessments of Ireland’s situation.

    Participants interviewed during the course of the two days were positive about the level of discussion. Labour leader Éamon Gilmore noted the amount of good will among attendees: “I think we’re getting a lot of friendly advice here today.”

    And participants seemed cautiously optimistic that their advice would be listened to: “I assume that the Government – since they went to the trouble of bringing everyone here – they’ll take some good order of what they’re hearing,” said Dennis Swanson, President of Fox Television.

    “I’m very realistic about it – we shouldn’t underestimate this: it is a tough crisis. But we have our health”, Avril Conroy said, laughing. She summed up her thoughts with the kind of sentiment that the Government was surely banking on as it organised the forum: “I’m positive, I love Ireland. I might have left, but I never went away”.

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