By: Selma Bardakci, Turkey (Class 20, Host Organization: John D. Evans Foundation)

People in the diaspora automatically become “citizen diplomats” since they are showing a human face to their country. As an Atlas Corps Fellow, living amongst many people outside their home countries, I see a need to redefine the word “diplomat” within “citizen diplomat.” Whereas diplomat traditionally suggests loyalty and support for one’s government, it means something much broader in terms of diaspora populations. Moreover, while nation-states recognize the importance of the diaspora, the diaspora is not a monolith – in fact, it is made up of diverse people with a range of opinions about their own governments.

Realizing the diversity within diasporas means realizing the complexity of nation-state power in an increasingly transnational, borderless world. Indeed, most contemporary international relations literature recognizes that recent globalization has changed the nature of traditional nation-state power. Globalization makes borders more fluid, nation-states less discrete. States are no longer the only prominent actors in international relations and diplomacy. NGOs, civil society organizations and individuals are changing the power dynamics of our complex world.

Through the framework of globalization, diasporas are where interests and values intersect. On the values side, the peaceful coexistence of multiple diasporas paints an idealistic picture of global community in an increasingly borderless world. At the same time, nation-states realize that engaging with their own diasporas is in line with their foreign policy interests and soft power initiatives. For example, countries seeking power in the international arena, such as India, China, and Russia have institutionalized their relationships with their diaspora populations abroad.

In all three cases, the diaspora from these emerging countries benefit from increased resources and services of their host countries. The emerging countries, then, see this as an opportunity for gaining more influence and investment beyond their static borders. By maintaining ties through multiple social, economic, and political avenues, home states, rather than their diaspora, become the primary agents in shaping diasporic relations with the host state.

Delving into the complexities surrounding and within the diasporas of states shows that in a world where relations are multidimensional and shared by different actors, the diaspora can become an important tool. This tool is not only for nation-states, but also for individual change makers, entrepreneurs, international organizations, and innovators. Likewise, disparate diaspora communities can come together through their common goals—regarding human rights, mutual understanding, and shared experience—superseding their home country’s interest’s altogether, and creating new solutions for overcoming traditional obstacles.



Selma has five years of experience in Turkey’s non-profit sector. She earned a Bachelor’s of Political Science and International Relations from the Bahcesehir University in Turkey, during which she was an Erasmus exchange student at European University Viadrina in Germany for one semester. She also holds a Master of Global Politics and International Relations from Bahcesehir University. She most recently served as Deputy Director of International Leadership Application and Research Center. There are two departments in this center: the School of Government & Leadership, and the American Studies Center. She worked closely with the government to facilitate dialogue among policy makers, experts, civil society leaders and academics on regional and global issues. She also helped to organize Bahcesehir University’s School of Politics U.S. program, which is a two-week program for graduate school students to meet with political and business institutions including nonprofits, the U.S. Congress, think tanks, media organizations, and lobbying groups. Selma also organizes the Global Leadership Forum, which gathers international policy makers, academics and experts from around the world. In 2012, Selma led the Young Turkey – Young America Program, representing both Turkish young professionals as well as her own university. Selma enjoys focusing on the topics of leadership development, global politics,diplomacy and youth empowerment. She is also a Co-Opinion Young Professional Fellow, which is a policy-oriented youth solidarity network that advocates an integrated approach for youth policies in the Middle East and North Africa region to improve the agency of youth and to enhance their economic and social prospects. She has a strong passion for human and social capital development. Through these experiences, she has developed strong project coordination, implementation and management skills. In addition to her professional roles, Selma works on a social project to help Syrian refugees. Selma has been continuously contributing opinion pieces and interviews to Project on the Middle East and the Arab Spring (POMEAS), an online open forum for reflecting on and analyzing the various dimensions of the Arab Spring and its echoes in the region today. Selma has a passion for soccer, theatre and urban exploration.

Written By: Joe Costanzo
Director UK Institute for Migration Research (UK-IMR),

Anyone today with access to modern media has heard a podcast, watched a news story or read an article/blog about migration—even those without access to media have almost certainly heard or shared a personal, migration story.

December 18th, is International Migrants Day when we recognize “the large and increasing number of migrants in the world”. (United Nations @

Rarely a day goes by when stories of migration do not affect our lives. For some, migration is a first-person experience—our own stories of leaving, of change, of struggle, of searching for something better for us, for our families. For many, migration is part of our families’ stories. For some, migration is something we worry about, how it appears to be changing our villages, our cities and our nations. Migration is all of these things and more.

Who is a migrant? What about refugees, are they migrants too?

These may seem like basic questions but they cause confusion and frustration for many, including students and teachers, statisticians, legal scholars and policy makers trying to make sense of the complex world around us. The public conversation about migration has been nearly constant this year when we have witnessed unprecedented levels of human displacement across the globe.

Journalists, politicians and researchers have been responding daily to a rapidly changing landscape where all forms of migration continue to reach historically higher levels; where public support for humanitarian migration has abruptly shifted towards security concerns; and where long-standing (and assumed stable) policy and philosophical frameworks are in crisis—the European Union’s policy framework on asylum (called the Dublin Regulation) and the principle of free movement within European borders (the Schengen Area) are now being challenged. Here, in the UK, local authorities are responding, attempting to develop strategic plans on how to manage the certainty that change is coming but the uncertainty of what’s to come. This includes the formal resettlement of Syrians and steady claims for asylum from nationals of many other countries, as well as the continued growth in intra-EU migration towards the UK.

International agreements, like the 1951 Refugee Convention – which defines a refugee – and international organizations, like the United Nations, provide legal frameworks and guidance on how to describe and count the many different sorts of people (migrants, refugees, students etc.) who may cross national borders by choice or by force to travel, live, work or settle outside their home countries. The term “migrant” has no universally-accepted definition around the world, but the UN suggests that, in the international context, it refer to “any person who changes his or her country of usual residence” regardless of their motivation or legal circumstance.

Where can I find good, reliable information or learn more about migration?

The ‘simple’ answer could be in three easy steps: In places you likely already know, a few you may not and a few classics!

First, locate the basic terms and numbers: For definitions and other migration-related lingo, check out our migration institute’s new glossary of terms. Even though it might seem daunting at first, for numbers check out the experts at the national statistics offices in your country (like the Census Bureau in the United States, or the Office for National Statistics in the UK). These are excellent first points of contact for getting the big picture.

Second, think critically about what you read on migration. Ask yourself (and, why not the person or organization putting out the information?) where the numbers come from and whether sources you trust use those same numbers.

Third, google it (responsibly). I just googled “migration” from here in the UK. It gave me 170 million responses. I might be a migration researcher but I don’t have the time (or the money) to read all those results! Be more specific, googling “migration research” or “migration statistics” reduces the number of hits by millions. Even more important, the top results are recognizable names and organizations—universities, think tanks and government agencies working specifically on these issues. Adding even more specific terms you’re interested in, like your city, or themes like “jobs”, “impacts” or “asylum” will help again. If you find yourself caught on an academic website—fear not! Sources like and translate academic research into compelling, accessible and timely data and analysis that can be readily used and understood. Too, targeted google searches have the added value of introducing you to new, emerging sources of information.

The importance of an informed discussion on migration could not be more critical given the historic levels of all forms of migration underway worldwide including, and most visibly, the forced (or humanitarian-led) migration of refugees. And, through the determined efforts of many actors in and outside of academia, a hard-fought and important place has been created for evidence-led debate on migration.

For many reasons, the debate over migration will continue to grab headlines. Hopefully this short blog post gives some easy to remember and easy to use tools so you can question (and provide your own answers to) the migration conversation.

Currently the Director of the UK Institute for Migration Research, Dr Costanzo got his start in the migration field in the early 1990s as an intern in the Consular Section of the US Embassy in Paris (State) before working for many years on migration statistics and migration policy for the US Commission on Immigration Reform, US Census Bureau (Commerce) and US Citizenship & Immigration Services (Homeland Security). Joe and the UK Institute for Migration Research are based in Kent, England.




“If everyone donates cash, the effect is cumulative and more tangible as such aggregate impact would improve the lives of not only the recipients but would also boost the local economy.”

I donate cash because I know that cash can be used for many needs. As the recipients know their needs better than I do, donating cash avoids my second-guessing of their critical needs. For example, instead of sending clothing to some needy families in Somalia, I donate cash so they can determine how to best use that cash. The critical decision of whether to have a change of clothing or necessary medication for a sick a child can be made on the ground by the recipients. This has made a world of difference to those receiving my cash donations.

On the larger scale, if everyone donates cash, the effect is cumulative and more tangible as such aggregate impact would improve the lives of not only the recipients but would also boost the local economy. Therefore, I look at the bigger picture when donating and, as a result, I donate cash. Simply put, cash is the best.

Barlin's photo

Barlin Ali, Program Coordinator for Center for International Disaster Information

Earthrise, William Anders, 1968

Earthrise, William Anders, 1968

“I am confident that the International Day of Human Space Flight will remind us of our common humanity and our need to work together to conquer shared challenges. I hope it will also inspire young people in particular to pursue their dreams and move the world towards new frontiers of knowledge and understanding.”

–Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

What does the Center for International Disaster Information have to do with the International Day of Human Space Flight? Do you know who Michael Collins is? The Apollo 11 mission, which put the first humans on the moon, had a 3-person crew. While Collins continued to orbit around the Moon in the spacecraft, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left in the Lunar Module to make the first manned landing on its surface.

Michael Collins is an equal partner and unsung hero in the mission to land on the moon. Just as Ban Ki-moon reminds us of the importance of teamwork, we at CIDI understand that everyone who donates to disaster relief is a partner in helping survivors. To save lives, alleviate human suffering, and reduce the social and economic impact of disasters, the American public donates in support of organizations working directly with disaster-affected people. Those in the field use monetary donations to give survivors what they need, when they need it. It’s a beautiful partnership.

While sometimes it may feel as if you are in orbit like Michael Collins – only observing the action, when you donate money to your favorite relief organization you become an indispensable partner in saving lives.