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.

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’ .

ERGO’s Annual working meeting and exchange visit in Hungary

ERGO’s Annual working meeting and exchange visit in Hungary

From 22-24 May our Hungarian members Autonomia Foundation and Pro Cserehat Association organized an exchange visit between the ERGO core members from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

The first day of the visit was dedicated to discussing and exchanging views and practices from our common work conducted under the Annual Work Programme 2017 and to plan ahead. After the meeting, the ERGO members had the chance to visit and learn more about the work conducted by our Hungarian members in the rural areas of Borsod county.

The first visit was organized by Autonomia in the village of Tomor, where the local Roma coordinator László Siroki stressed the challenges that Roma communities are facing due to the reluctance of local authorities to cooperate with Roma.  As a good practice example, the local coordinator presented the social enterprise Romama, where several Roma women are employed in a restaurant in an area where 90% of Roma are in the Public Work Program.

The second visit was organized by Pro Cserehat Association who presented their Pro Ratatouille project in Edelény.  This community gardening initiative targets disadvantaged communities. The community garden in Edeleny is run by 6 Roma families and proved to be a very successful project for the self-reliance and civic empowerment of Roma.

The meeting and the exchange visit brought up a lot of new information and many practices that the communities and our members can learn from, and was a starting point for new projects together.