STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS

STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT  WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS

ERGO Network’s new transparency and accountability criteria give recommendations on how grassroots civil society organisations should be governed and managed in order to be reliable and accountable.  Fulfilling the criteria will bring attention to an organisation’s quality work. The set of criteria focuses on governance, financial management and performance.

ERGO Network together with its member organisations – Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (Slovakia), Roma Active Albania (Albania), Slovo 21 (Czech Republic), Autonomia Foundation (Hungary), OTAHARIN (Bosnia and Herzegovina), RROMA (Macedonia), Mladi Romi (Montenegro) and Zero Discrimination (Turkey) – developed a set of transparency and accountability criteria for grassroots organisations with the aim to strengthen civil society organisations. Using the criteria will give more legitimacy, better fundraising opportunities and more trust from both the grassroots level and institutions and ultimately reinforce the power of civil society organizations. Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society that is taken seriously by its institutional counterparts and other partners.

Furthermore, the members of ERGO Network agreed on joining their efforts and putting their thorough expertise together to empower Roma and pro-Roma civil society in their countries in implementing the transparency criteria. For this aim, ERGO Network has developed a board game that leads the players through different steps necessary to become more transparent and accountable. Anyone can download the game and play it by themselves, or invite an ERGO Network facilitator to support them through the process. Besides the offline game, there is also an online self-audit that you can go through to discover how far you are in applying the criteria in your organisation.

Fulfilling the transparency criteria means not only being able to show that Roma and pro-Roma civil society takes these very seriously, but also having the right to demand the same from other stakeholders.

Find out more about the transparency and accountability criteria and download them in several languages: http://ergonetwork.org/transparency/

Do the online audit and know how well your organisation fulfils the transparency and accountability criteria http://ergonetwork.org/transparency/transparency-audit/

Local Dialogue Meeting in Bijeljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Local Dialogue Meeting organised by ERGO Member OTAHARIN

Through ERGO Network’s project Strengthening Roma NGOs as transparent and independent watchdog organisations in the framework of the  Joint initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey our member OTAHARIN organised a Local Dialogue Meeting with the city administration in Bijeljina on 31 May 2018.  The city was represented by Milan Lazić (Social affairs) and Ljubiša Stanišić (Office for National minorities). From the civil society side, the organisations Otaharin, WA Romkinja and the youth organisation “Senat mladih OMOTE” were present with their representatives Draga Joković, Sabira Hašimović, Fatima Džanić and Mladen Đurić.

Different topics to discuss

A wide range of topics was covered during the intensive meeting between the civil society and local authorities’ representatives:

  • Organization of working group meeting for drafting a Local Action Plan
  • Proposal for renovation of streets in Roma settlements (asphalting and lighting installation)
  • Initiatives of young Roma through support of CARE International (renovation of objects of social vulnerable families)
  • Environmental problems near residential buildings for Roma near the canal Dašnica
  • Problems with documentation of Roma families to solve housing issues
  • Problems with families abusing the facilities they received in terms of renting an apartment for other family
  • Problems with families who received objects for living, but still force children to beg
  • Suggestions for the organisation of a youth camp within the project implemented by Otaharin
The meeting resulted in the following recommendations:
  • Organise a meeting of the working group for reviewing the Local Action Plan with the presence of the Mayor
  • Collect necessary information about the target group and their community in order to establish a plan for solving problems of asphalting and lighting (Streets: Bogdana Zimonjića, Baje Pivljanina, Ilije Garašanina, Vojvode Petra Pojovića i Ratka Perića)
  • In order to solve environmental problems near residential buildings for Roma, it is necessary to find out what the company received on the tender for maintenance
  • Make a call for citizens to donate used furniture, clothes and similar things in order to support social vulnerable families  (joint initiative of Otaharin and city administration)
  • Define relationships in terms of how much and what can be done in case of unregulated housing documents of Roma
  • Define mechanisms for controlling life in buildings built for Roma due to housing problems (non-living and rent to other families) and non-payment of maintenance money – work on changing contracts and rules for obtaining an apartment – include a centre for social work
  • Organise a meeting of the working group for the protection of children to resolve problem of begging.
  • Proposal of cooperation with the armed forces for maintenance of a youth camp in Bijeljina

The meeting was organised with financial support of the International Visegrad Fund and the IPA Civil Society Programme of the European Commisison.

Joint Work for the Inclusion of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Joint Work for the Inclusion of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The EU Delegation / Office of the EU Special Representative in BiH, in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, organized on January 31, 2018, Seminar on the Inclusion of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.

More than 80 representatives of local authorities, non-governmental and international organizations participated in the 4th Seminar on Roma Integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has made some progress in the integration of Roma in the area of housing and registration of citizens, but much still needs to be done in employment, education and health care, said the Roma Affairs Adviser at the European Commission’s Directorate for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Marta Garcia Fidalgo.

Minister of Human Rights and Refugees of BiH, Semih Borovac, emphasized that discrimination, prejudice and exclusion from social life continue to be the problems of Roma both in BiH and Europe, and that it warns of the importance of greater political engagement and commitment to the issue of inclusion of Roma in BiH and adequate separation money from the budget for the needs of this population.

Chairman of the Committee on Roma at the Council of Ministers of BiH, Mujo Fafulic, is grateful to international organizations and authorities in BiH (especially the line ministry) for money allocated for solving Roma problems, but also says that their problems are still not resolved.

Head of the EU Delegation to BiH and EU Special Representative to BiH Lars Gunnar Wigemark emphasized in Sarajevo that resolving the position of the Roma minority in BiH is certainly a matter of national interest, and it is also important in the context of joining the European Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries Western Balkans.

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.

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.

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