Strengthening Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations

Strengthening Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations

ERGO members from the Western Balkans, Turkey and the ‘Visegrad countries’ Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic met in Brussels on 24-25 November to prepare a new ERGO project that will strengthen Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations.

Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society organisations that are taken seriously by their institutional counterparts. It also shows public authorities that civil society take transparency and accountability very seriously and demand the same from the public sector.

With financial support from the International Visegrad Fund and the European Commission, ERGO Network member organizations therefore agreed on joining their efforts and put their thorough expertise together to set up a list of ‘transparency criteria’ and capacitate Roma civil society in their countries in implementing them.

During the meeting, all partners agreed that using transparency criteria would give them more legitimacy, better fundraising opportunities and more trust from both the grassroots level and institutions. They then drew up a list of criteria, divided into the chapters ‘governance’, ‘finance’ and ‘performance’. These include points such as giving access and distributing information about statutes and funding sources of CSOs, clear decision-making structures that divide responsibilities and ensure gender equality in CSOs, as well as the participation of target groups in the development of strategies and goals.  The partners furthermore stressed the importance of open leadership and regular training within the organisation that contribute to a positive performance of the staff, as well as the need not to use ‘dirty money’ coming for example from illegal sources or from companies using child labour.

Transparency also demands a proper and clear communication strategy (both internal and external) that communicates the vision, mission and the long term goals of the organization. If applicable, diversification of funds also contributes to more independence of organisations.

In 2018, ERGO Network will organise a training for trainers on the transparency criteria in order to help their usage and dissemination in the participating countries as well as offer coaching visits to the partner organisations. You will be able to find regular updates on our website.

The second annual meeting of the Roma Forum network took place with prominent guests

The second annual meeting of the ROMA FORUM network took place with prominent guests

ERGO partner Nevo Parudimos organized the second meeting of ROMA FORUM network. The meeting took place on 4-5 December, 2017 at the Sports Cultural Complex Tei in Bucharest. The meeting was organized within the framework of the strategic partnership coordinated by ERGO.

The meeting was attended by Minister Delegate for European Affairs, president of the National Agency for Roma, , deputy of the Roma minority in Parliament.  Alongside them were representatives of Roma civil society in the country. The novelty of this meeting was that for the first time organizations of Christian Roma participated with a significant number of participants.

The topics addressed at the meeting were:

  • Romanian Presidency of the EU Council – Roma issues on the social agenda of the European Union;
  • Explore strategies to improve the situation of Roma people – the implementation thereof;
  • The analysis of the opportunities available for the Roma NGOS;
  • Presentation of the programs LEADER, Erasmus+ and Europe for Citizens;
  • The planning of future activities of ROMA FORUM;

The Roma FORUM network intends to provide space for debate and analysis of existing policies for Roma people. Roma FORUM is a network of Romani organization, Roma activists and researchers, who want to contribute to the improvement of public policies for Roma communities.

Antigypsyism on the agenda at EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

Antigypsyism on the agenda at EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

The EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, bringing together representatives of EU Member States and civil society representatives, put special emphasis on discussing antigypsyism at their 4th High-Level Meeting taking place on 5 December 2017.

Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, expressed deep concerns regarding the widespread social acceptance of antigypsyism. As an example she brought the case of hate speech and death threats against Czech Roma singer Gypsy.cz, which was fined with only 4 Euros by a domestic court. Judicial cases such as this send a wrong message when it comes to combating antigypsyist hate speech.

MEP Soraya Post (S&D Group) emphasized the urgent need to remedy antigypsyism as the root cause of discrimination and hatred against Roma and called upon all governments and duty-bearers to take responsibility for their citizens. She warned: “Europe is at a crossroads again. Extremist parties are getting into the governments, xenophobic voices are getting more and more common and tolerated even by members of governments”.

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO Network, presented the Reference Paper on Antigypsyism in her contribution and pointed out the importance to focus on mainstream society when combating antigypsyism: “It is essential to see that antigypsyism is not a ‘minority issue’. It is a phenomenon of our societies, which has its origin in how the social majority view and treat those whom they consider ‘gypsies’. To combat antigypsyism, our attention needs to shift to mainstream societies, while raising the voices of those who are dramatically affected by antigypsyism, but also usually silenced by it”.

The EU Fundamental Rights Agency presented findings of the second survey on discrimination and hatred targeting minorities throughout the EU. The survey shows that Roma and people of African descent face above-average levels of discrimination and hatred across Europe, which affects them in all areas of life and is greatest when looking for a job. Roma are more likely to be victims of hate motivated harassment and violence as well as ethnic discrimination than any other group, but three quarter of the respondents do not know any organisation offering support to victims and are unaware of relevant legislation protecting them. Due to a lack of trust, knowledge and resources, non-reporting of incidents of discrimination and hatred still remains a challenge. Reporting of hate-motivated harassment and discrimination to relevant services did not increase since 2008.

The survey results show the severity of discrimination and hatred against Roma in Europe. We urge the European Commission to assign the Fundamental Rights Agency to publish a study on antigypsyism in the EU and candidate countries and to provide a deeper analysis of the EU MIDIS II survey by looking at structural and institutional discriminatory practices and policies.

ERGO Network together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and the European Network against Racism urge EU Member States to take targeted measures against antigypsyism. These should be included in the National Roma Integration Strategies and the National Action Plans against Racism. Disaggregated data on hate crimes against Roma and their property needs to be collected and antigypsyism must be recognised to allow national authorities to analyse trends of hate crimes affecting Roma and to develop effective responses to ensure recording, prosecution and adequate support to victims of racist violence and hate speech.

Find here the policy recommendations of the Alliance against Antigypsyism.

Download the recommendations as pdf.


     

Making the wheel roll

Making the wheel roll

The European Platform for Roma Inclusion,  convened by the European Commission, brings together national governments, the European institutions, international organisations and Roma civil society representatives. By creating a professional hub and meeting place for all, the goal is to strengthen co-operation and exchanges of relevant experience among all stakeholders on efficient Roma inclusion and integration policies and practices.

The European Roma Platform is a significant forum for reflection and apprehensive actions of the multi-stakeholder circle on social and economic integration the Roma population.

The 11th European Roma Platform took place on 27/28 November in Brussels and focused on the transition from education to employment. Szabolcs Schmidt, head of unit of non-discrimination and Roma coordination, delivered the opening remarks on behalf of the European Commission. The first panel provided evidence on the choice of this event`s topic. The latest numbers and percentages of the European Minorities and Discrimination Survey of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency show that despite growing national employment levels, the changes in Roma employment levels are small, or negative. The rate of those Roma who are not in education has also risen in almost all Member States of the EU where a considerable Roma population lives.

Participants from all over Europe shared their concepts and findings from the national level through thematic workshops in the afternoon.

ERGO Network was actively involved in the preparation and running of the event. Not only did several member organisations participate in the platform, ERGO director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova also facilitated the thematic workshop on employment.  ERGO furthermore launched a campaign to mobilize support for investing in employment opportunities for young Roma during the platform: `Investing in our future: What work(s) for young Roma?’ We brought the messages of young Roma themselves to the event, explored and developed at the ERGO Summer Academy by members of our network. 11 powerful testimonies of young Roma were furthermore portrayed on figurines exhibited around the venue of the event in order to raise awareness of the education and employment challenges of Roma in Europe.

The conclusions of the Platform might not be new to most, but they show the will of the EU institutions and civil society to make the wheel roll for Roma youth employment.  It was clearly highlighted that particularly mechanisms challenging school segregation are in high need and that challenging antigypsyism needs to be the basis for combating poverty and social exclusion.

ERGO Network will definitely keep the wheel rolling to support the implementation of more and better education and employment measures for young Roma.