World wide webs: Diasporas and the international system
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World wide webs: Diasporas and the international system

In this Lowy Institute Paper, Dr Michael Fullilove argues that national diasporas are like ‘world wide webs’, with dense, interlocking strands spanning the globe and binding different individuals, institutions and countries together.


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Key Findings
  • Diasporas are getting stronger as a result of international migration; the revolutions in transport and communications technologies; a reaction against globalised homogenous culture; the end of the Cold War; and government policy changes.
  • Diasporas have awesome economic power in the form of remittance flows and business networks.
  • Diaspora groups are becoming more prominent players in host country politics, and their influence is being felt in homelands too. However, diasporas can also provide foot soldiers for intelligence services and criminal networks, and can foster extremism and sustain insurgencies back home.

Executive Summary

This Lowy Institute Paper argues that diasporas – communities which live outside, but maintain links with, their homelands – are getting larger, thicker and stronger. Diaspora consciousness is on the rise: diasporans are becoming more interested in their origins; homelands are revising their opinions of their diasporas and stepping up their engagement efforts; meanwhile, host countries are worrying about fifth columns and foreign lobbies. This trend has important implications for global economics, identity, politics and security – and it will complicate life significantly for national governments.

The Paper can be downloaded here.



Areas of expertise: Australian foreign policy; US politics and foreign policy; Asia and the Pacific; Global institutions