Brain Drain and Post-Conflict Reconstruction


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A brief analysis the relationship between out migration and reconstruction of conflicted regions?

Written by independent consultant, Mitchell Sipus

Published in: News & Politics, Travel
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Brain Drain and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

  1. 1. Brain Drain and Post-Conflict Reconstruction Mitchell Sipus October 14, 2008
  2. 2. Introduction At the outset, it appear that brain drain is a zero sum situation wherein one nation loses its most skilled and education to accommodate the economic interests of another, often wealthier, nation. Yet brain drain is not always such a bleak situation, where one nation wins and another loses. To understand this, it should be recognized that positive spin offs may occur as a consequence of the migrant Diaspora. Indeed, while some migrants return home with greater skills, additional benefits may occur. What is less clear is the nature in which brain drain might contribute to the post conflict landscape, as a significant factor within the reconstruction of the nation state. An investigation into the brain drain processes of Sudan and an inquiry into the dynamics of reconstruction thus prompts a new discourse regarding the assets available for policy makers and humanitarian actors within the issue of brain drain. The Contributions of Brain Drain Brain drain is often conceptually understood as existing strictly in consequence of the pull factors for migration within Europe, the United States, and the Gulf region. Within this line of thinking, many individuals pursue higher education and skills training within their homeland with the prospects of seeking employment and livelihood opportunities elsewhere. However this is not necessarily a loss for the origin nation, unless the cost of educating its citizens is less than the assets later delivered to that nation by its citizens abroad. These assets may exist in the form of remittances or by other means such the later return of that individual to his native state. 1
  3. 3. More significantly, is likely that such a highly trained individual would not find employment within his native country, and thus remaining would contribute to a widespread trend of underemployment or unemployment among the general population. If the cost of departure is not large for the origin country, then clearly it is of greater socio-economic benefit within the nation to push for migration of such individuals. Of course these dynamics might be more particular to sectors, such as health care or finance, and other opportunities may exist within the nation that are not being pursued as heavily, wherein the nation maintains an economic loss due – in part – to migration. However, even within such circumstances, the potential for the individual to return at a latter time and provide a greater economic contribution is certainly within the short-term costs. As in the end, the location of ones education (who pays for it?) is the most important factor. Do the resources of the origin country or the host country pay for the creation of skills? The lower the cost for the origin country, the greater an economic asset can be served by the migrant population (Sriskandarajah 2002). Diaspora and Sudan Sudan has experienced various phases of out-migration since the time of its independence in 1956. Initially situated within highly favorable circumstances, its first major phase of out migration occurred within the 1970s during the time of the first major rise in oil prices. Later poor management and governance unraveled the strengths of its economic and physical infrastructure, compounded by the growing ferocity of civil war in the South, prompting widespread transmit migration to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Kenya and Uganda. Equipped within varied skills and education, intervals sought escape 2
  4. 4. from political repression and economic hardship. Others sought resettlement as refugees or utilized family linkages to find better situations abroad, thus accessing new opportunities for education. Regardless of the procedure, a dramatic redistribution of the population likewise reconfigured the economic landscape, redirecting skills and capital out of the hands of than nation (Elnur 2002, 40). Reconstructing Sudan The most direct asset that can be served within the reconstruction of Sudan is the immense volume of skills, education, and social and capital that can be found within the Diaspora community. The problem however is to channel this diverse body of assets back into Sudan. With limit infrastructure, security, and mechanisms such as venture capital or start up funding in addition to banks, loans, and governance, there is little to attract a highly skilled or educated Sudanese national back to his homeland. Furthermore, in the even that such an individual chooses to return, there is not an active market to accommodate the efforts of that migrant. Of course various forms of social capital, such as ideas, behaviors and ideologies appropriated abroad could assist in further stabilizing a potentially volatile landscape. Through the reinforcement of human rights, women’s rights, the values of education for girls and gender equality could enhance existing markets and stimulate the growth of entrepreneurship. Advancements in gender equality alone could potentially double the workforce and provide leverage to increase the economic multiplier of national currency, thus encouraging a healthier, active economy. 3
  5. 5. In an attempt to counter the existing challenges, IOM initiated a program in 2006 to assist the formation of the public institutions and private enterprise by facilitating the permanent or temporary return of highly skilled Sudanese nationals. These individuals are carefully selected on the basis of the specific skills they can contribute the development of the landscape by matching skill sets with development objectives. Upon matching candidates qualifications with a specific employer and employment objective, IOM has facilitated the return of the individual with a customized reintegration package and support services. Thus far IOM has overseen the reintegration of schoolteachers and is expanding its effort into sectors of health, agriculture, and infrastructure. Conclusion As the gaps between conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, and international development remain imprecise and nevertheless daunting, it is clear that brain drain in the pre-conflict era may provide a significant resource later on. Of course, larger question looms regarding the impact that brain drain has upon the landscape in terms of furthering instability. While it is unclear if brain drain directly contributes to the initiation of conflict, it is certainly cleat that to capitalize upon the benefits of brain drain may help progress afterward. 4
  6. 6. Works Cited Elnur, Ibrahim. 2002. The Second Boat of Africa’s New Diaspora: Looking at the Other Side of the Global Divide with an Emphasis on Sudan. African Issues Volume XXX/1 McMahon, Lindsay T. Return of Qualified Sudanese. Forced Migration Review 28, p 23 Sriskandarajah, Dhananjayan. August 2005. Reassessing the Impacts of Brain Drain on Developing Countries. 5