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.

CLLD Training for Local Action Groups and potential beneficiaries

ERGO member Nevo Parudimos from Romania organised its first training on Community-Led Local Development for Local Action Groups and potential CLLD beneficiaries. The training was held in cooperation with the National Federation of Local Action Groups on 15/16 November 2017 in Tecuci, Romania.

The 40 participants, representing 10 LAGs from the South-East region of Romania, Roma NGOs and Roma from local communities, learned how CLLD can be used for the development and funding of projects targeting Roma communities. Parts of the programme were held for both LAGs and beneficiaries together in order to exchange ideas and create partnerships. During other parts the group split into two in order to focus on the specific needs of both groups.

The training was made possible thanks to the financial support of the European Commission’s EaSI programme through a Framework Partnership Agreement between ERGO Network and DG Employment.

If you would like to read more about ERGO’s work on the CLLD, visit our website.

 

Closer to Communities – Roma Coordinators for better use of EU Funds

ERGO member Autonomia Foundation from Hungary recently published a set of recommendations based on the outcomes of their project “Closer to Communities – Roma Coordinators for better use of EU Funds”, supported by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union.

The general purpose of the “Closer to Communities” programme was to increase the efficiency of projects benefitting from EU structural funds. The programme was implemented in 15 disadvantaged communities where a large number of Roma live – these communities were assisted by local Roma coordinators in their local development.   The Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities (TÖOSZ) participated in the implementation and supported the national dissemination of lessons learnt. ERGO Network contributed to the presentation and dissemination of results at international level.

As a result of the programme, 11 applications for Roma integration projects were submitted to EU Calls for Proposals, which will provide close to 1 Million Euro worth of local development funds if supported. Hundreds of local governments were directly informed of the project at the county forums and in workshops organized jointly with TÖOSZ. In addition, dozens of mayors were involved in discussions on Roma integration challenges and possible solutions. The experiences and suggestions of the project were presented at a working group meeting in Brussels with different experts and civil servants of the European Commission in May 2017.

The main recommendations focus on better dissemination of good practices, stronger conditionality of European funding, more transparent funding rules as well as more core funding for Roma and pro-Roma NGOs in order to act as independent watchdog organisations.

Read more about the project results and recommendations here.

As one outcome of the project, local communities took part in common art projects, focusing on community video making. Have a look at the film ‘Closer to Communities’ .

Youth Camp ‘Turn on Activism’

In order to bring young people closer to the activist spirit, the Association of Citizens for the Promotion of Roma Education, “Otaharin”, currently implements a project named “Youth power rising”. Through this project we organize three youth camps in three years with support of the Schüler Helfen Leben Foundation.

Young people represent an extremely important category of the population and are future bearers of change in society; therefore it is necessary to pay adequate attention to their needs, attitudes and desires, as well as support the development of youth activism.

The youth camp “Turn on activism” is a five-day program in which young people have the opportunity to participate in the development of a strategic plan to solve problems identified in their community and then to solve the problem through the project. The aim of this activity is to promote positive change of everyday life through the active involvement of all young people in creating better social opportunities. The young people from the City of Bijeljina can participate in the camp.

As a result of three years working with this particular group of people (participants of past camps and project activities), we realized their need to create and form a youth organization on local level that will give them the chance to make bigger steps to positive change in community. In this camp, they will work on the strategic plan of this organization, and they will work on increasing their skills in working with a group, positive communication and leadership.