[ Governance ]

This pilot assessment of diaspora governance in Romania has provided a testing ground, a methodological approach that can be replicated and applied to the study of other countries with diaspora infrastructures. The interactive graphs (slider above), generated from unique datasets compiled since 2018, are structured along three lines of inquiry: an overview of institutional budgets and expenditures, a detailed analysis of funding distribution, and a qualitative appraisal of how Romanians abroad or representatives of diaspora organisations experienced the process, from the initial application for funding to project management/implementation and the overall public interface with Romanian grant administrators. The overarching query in the interactive debate tool tackles the efficiency and relevance of the funding mechanism as operated by the Department for Romanians Abroad (Departamentul pentru Românii de Pretutindeni, DRP). This governmental body manages the distribution of grants for the diaspora, assisting with the funding applications and the implementation of projects. So far, there has been no meaningful public debate or transparency regarding the distribution of public funds in support of diaspora initiatives or projects.

The radial bar charts (slider above) document all the projects and funding recipients by country of residence, year and by project scope, highlighting the initially approved sums (as stated in the project application), as well as the reimbursements (the sums reimbursed upon project completion). Unfortunately, the Department for Romanians Abroad does not report reimbursements; hence, we filed multiple freedom of information petitions to obtain all the relevant data since it qualifies as public spending (more in the Data sub-section). For now, resources are in Romanian because we aim to bring this necessary conversation into the public sphere, which we hope may be conducive to reform and trust-building in the future. In effect, Romania does not have a strategic approach to diaspora engagement, and this becomes visible from the patchwork of policies and bureaucratic procedures that hamper a more articulate vision.

From all the testimonials we have gathered, a few stand out:

  • The funding mechanism supporting diaspora initiatives is not a grant, provided organisations must cover most of the expenses associated with project implementation in advance – “It is not funding. It is a reimbursement” (a representative aptly noted in one of our interviews).
  • For small volunteer diaspora associations, the administrative costs are too high. Many hidden risks are associated with applying for funding in Romania, especially if one is implementing the projects abroad. “At the final reimbursement, we were missing money because of the hidden transaction costs and because the Department operates with three currencies (the funding contract is in Romanian lei, the transfers are in Euro, but our expenses were in GBP). In the end, we were missing over 400EUR.” (Interview with a UK-based diaspora organisation).
  • Or the overwhelming bureaucracy “(…) we had to print, scan, print again and send by post all the final documentation [for the reimbursement] because they don’t have an online submission portal, nor do they accept a final electronic signature (…). We had to sign every page, and by the time we had to mail by post, the whole package weighed about 2kg (…). It got lost, so I had to fly to Romania at my own expense to deliver the whole thing in person.”

These are just a few snippets of how Romanians abroad view the funding application process, most times, an alienating experience.

  • If you applied for funding (even if your application was rejected), contact us because this is an ongoing debate and every experience matters.
  • All the graphs are adjusted for mobile versions, but we suggest viewing them on a desktop screen for optimal interactivity. Click on the thumbnail in the slider above, and the graph will open in a separate frame.

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