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This Position Paper, presented during the 49th edition of the “Intelligence on the World, Europe and Italy” Forum held in Cernobbio, was prepared by The European House – Ambrosetti, in collaboration with the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). With the contribution of members of institutions and experts, the paper analyzes the strategic importance for Italy of the network represented by the populations of Italian origin in the world, through an examination of the origins and recent history of the global Italian diaspora, with special focus on the areas of greatest presence – such as the United States of America (US) and South America – and offers proposals to enhance this widespread “asset” of the Italian diaspora in light of the challenges posed by the evolution of the international scenario.

(Cernobbio, Italy – September 2, 2023) – The Position Paper “Harnessing the power of the global Italian diaspora. How to strategically manage a valuable asset for the country-system” will be presented during the “Rethinking globalization” panel. The panelists are Arancha González Laya (Dean, Paris School of International Affairs), Chris Miller (Professor of International History, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; author of Chip Wars), Joseph Stiglitz (Professor, Columbia University; Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences). Federico Rampini (writer and columnist) will moderate the panel.

The Italian diaspora is a phenomenon of large-scale emigration that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, when almost 30 million Italians left the country and, of these, more than 18 million never returned to their homeland. Thanks to the past emigration flows, today, Italy can count on a network of more than 80 million people of Italian origin deeply rooted in a number of key areas of the world, starting from the Americas, but also in Europe or Australia, plus an additional 5.8 million fellow citizens living abroad, who can make their contribution to the communities of Italian emigrants already present, or create new ones.

The global distribution of Italian diaspora helped to spread the Italian “footprint” abroad. In fact, Italian emigrants and their descendants worldwide contribute to promoting Italian identity in different countries and act as a bridge between Italy and rest of the world. In economic terms, it can be estimated that their economic value exceeds 2.5 trillion Euros, of which 93.4 percent of the total refers to Italian descendants in the Americas, the geographical area that hosts the largest number. Italian descendants represent an all-round development opportunity for Italy: promoting the reputation of the country of origin in that of destination is a very important contribution that Italian descendants make to the positioning of “Made in Italy” products; the potential of “roots tourism” can be worth more than 90 billion Euros for Italy (almost 200 billion Euros considering direct and induced effects); training programs in Italy dedicated to diasporic communities can help the country improve its attractiveness and build long-term strategic ties; and the influential role of Italian descendants’ communities in countries of settlement can play a key role in stimulating positive advocacy for Italy.

In recent times, Italy has been studying the role and value of its diaspora in the world, and the issue has received increased recognition on the country’s formal agenda. Countries, such as China and France, have long interpreted their diasporas as levers for growth and development through specific engagement and mobilization strategies. The Position Paper thus identifies specific policy proposals to mobilize the Italian diasporic communities.

An initial point of action to increase the engagement of the Italian diaspora is the promotion of Italy’s image abroad. More comprehensive and effective communication to diasporic communities can be both an engagement tool, stimulating curiosity and the desire to learn more about the current reality of the country of origin of their ancestors, and a mobilization tool, through the provision of information that the diaspora communities themselves can enhance based on the context of the countries where they are rooted.

A second area of intervention is the promotion of the Italian language abroad, which is one of the main instruments of cultural influence available to Italy. The network of Italian Cultural Institutes (ICCs) represents an operational tool of primary importance and it needs to be further strengthened. For instance, French (Institut Français) and English (British Council) institutes have a diffusion level of 2.5x that of their Italian counterparts; those in Germany (Goethe-Institut) 1.8x, and China (Confucius Institute) has over 540 offices against 85 for Italy.

An additional important area of improvement involves the issue of dual citizenship which is an essential element of an effective strategy to connect or reconnect with diaspora populations. By treating Italian descendants as part of an “extended nation” the likelihood that a beneficial and long-lasting bond can be forged is substantially higher. To date, the timeline required to obtain Italian citizenship is a lengthy process. There is a priority need to re-power the network of consulates by ensuring adequate human resources and funds.

A fourth sphere of action is the empowerment of the relations between Italy—conceived as the entirety of its governmental and institutional framework at national and regional level—and the associations of Italian diasporic communities in the world. Making sure that these organizations are financed through private sources (e.g., membership fees, donations and crowdfunding), but also with the allocation of public funds (as France is doing, for instance), can be an important objective in ensuring organizational vitality and financial resilience and, through this, safeguarding their contributions toward the country of origin.

A fifth area of empowerment is the support and development of programs and initiatives in the field of research and education, with the involvement of Italian universities, research facilities and associations of Italian researchers abroad. Culture in the broadest sense can, in fact, represent the transversal “glue” of the many “souls” of the Italian diaspora, and training and research activities represent a privileged and effective channel of involvement of this network for the mutual benefit of the country. In this area there are some experiences that offer models to be further adapted and disseminated, such as the initiative of Luiss University in partnership with NIAF in offering scholarships for foreign students of Italian origin.

According to Mariangela Zappia, Italian Ambassador to the United States of America, “From our viewpoint in the United States, a nation that is home to over 17 million Italian Americans and continues to welcome thousands of Italians in recent years, to delve into the past and present of Italian diasporas, and to reflect on how to fully untap their potential, is an objective which lies at the core of the Italian Government’s foreign policy, under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tajani. Hence, we warmly welcome the NIAF and The European House – Ambrosetti Position Paper “Harnessing the power of the global Italian diaspora” as a valuable contribution on how to strengthen our engagement with Italian Americans and Italians in the U.S., to the benefit of our extraordinary bilateral partnership.”

According to Lorenzo Tavazzi, Partner and Head of the International Development, The European House – Ambrosetti: “Italy has been and remains a country of high mobility of people and diasporas should no longer be seen as “lost talent”, but as established assets. The Italian diaspora spreads from the Americas, to Europe, Africa and Australia and the success of its integration in the countries of destination helped to root a strong DNA of Italianness. Italy has not paid enough attention to these links and strategies of continuous dialogue between Italy and the communities of its diaspora are needed. In a period of major, profound change the world is experiencing, Italy’s prosperous and sustainable development can be concretely supported by the enhancement and engagement of the community of Italian origin in the world.”

According to Robert E. Carlucci, Chairman of the National Italian American Foundation – NIAF, “The Italian diaspora is an indispensable element of Italy’s standing in the world today. The diaspora functions as a network of ambassadors and influencers which has helped to popularize essential facets of Italianità around the globe. Moreover, the diaspora serves Italy as a catalyst for trade development and as a reservoir of political and moral influence. In short, the diaspora constitutes a uniquely valuable asset in the portfolio of Italy’s soft power. For this reason, the Italian diaspora merits significant tangible support from the Italian government in new and innovative ways.”


About The European House – Ambrosetti
The European House ‒ Ambrosetti is a leading management consulting group with more than 1,300 public and private Clients served each year. Established in 1965, it is headquartered in Milan and has a network of foreign offices in 18 countries in Europe and around the world. Additionally, The European House – Ambrosetti is supported by a series of strategic alliances and an external network of internationally-renowned advisors. The European House – Ambrosetti operates also as a Think Tank developing issues and proposals to support the debate on critical issues affecting the agenda of corporate leaders in Italy, Europe and worldwide. The European House ‒ Ambrosetti was named — in the category Best Private Think Tanks — the no. 1 Think Tank in Italy, the no. 4 in the European Union and among the most respected independents in the world out of 11,175 on a global level in the latest “Global Go To Think Tanks Report” of the University of Pennsylvania. The European House ‒ Ambrosetti was recognized by Top Employer Institute as one of the 141 Top Employers 2023 in Italy.

About NIAF
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), headquartered in Washington, D.C., is an American non-profit organization dedicated to serving as a resource for the Italian American community and works to preserve Italian heritage and culture and promote a positive image and legacy of Italian Americans.  As the most prominent Italian American organization in the United Staties, NIAF strengthens and empowers ties between the United States and Italy. Through the generosity of NIAF members, the organization also provides a high-quality grant and scholarship program to Italian American youth, heritage travel to Italy for college students and raises funds for the Italian American community and disaster relief.

Press Contact
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