Regional Consultation on Youth and Human Rights kicks off in Brussels

Regional Consultation on Youth and Human Rights kicks off in Brussels

The European Youth Forum and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized a Regional Consultation on Youth and Human Rights, in order to feed into a report on the same topic that will be prepared for the UN Human Rights Council later this year. ERGO Network was present at the 3 day meeting in Brussels, March 19-22.

In advance of the meeting, some background information was shared online to help participants prepare.  With a thematic questionnaire from the European Youth Forum, participants could get an insight in the organization`s submission to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call for input for a study on youth and human rights.

The gathering brought together 22 participants from all over Europe from different youth networks, youth and student organizations as well as international associations. Together with EYF the aim was to give the opportunity to have in dept discussions during the event on a variety of topics that are related to youth rights, key challenges of young people, as well as framework, programs and policies designed by European actors, such as the Council of Europe and the EU.

The first panel discussion set the scene with the opening remarks delivered by representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Youth Forum. It was important to mention some highlights regarding the current situation of human rights in Europe. Statistics and research show that today much of the continent’s public transport is not accessible, 70% of Roma report hunger and constant stigmatization, 30% of young people with black and Muslim origin don’t get a job because of their names, and youth homelessness is showing a slightly increasing tendency.

Good news is that Portugal’s efforts to create an inclusive environment to Roma and minorities serves as outstanding example. The Council of Europe with its interventions also strives to better shape policies for youth with its recommendations addressed to member states. The recommendations in question are regarding 1) access to social rights of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods (2015); 2) youth work (2017); and young people’s access to rights (2017), the latter calling on governments to address discriminatory practises.

The key challenges that are faced by young people in Europe are present in all generations of human rights. According to Alice Barbieri (Council of Europe Advisory and Council on Youth), there is a great underrepresentation of youth at city councils, political bodies and parliaments in Europe, with only 2% of parlamentarians aged under 30 worldwide. Young people also lack education on active citizenship. Non-standard employment effects more the younger generations where the mandate is unpaid, unfair or the work is undeclared. This also means that employees are not part of the pension scheme and do not receive any social protection. It is a worrying trend to see that 30% of those aged 15-29 in EU live at the risk of social exclusion or poverty.

Amana Ferro (European Anti-Poverty Network) presented findings on key challenges for young people. According to her, the programs aimed at providing support to young people are present to some extent, but they do not function as comprehensive strategies to combat youth poverty, and do not serve as tools for great autonomy. Cash based income support is still widely considered as social benefit, however, in the European societies it serves as a key factor to social inclusion. Tamas Kadar (Equinet) introduced the framework of equality bodies in Europe, their practices and examples of discrimination.

Age restrictions take away opportunities in general from young people, and ethnic paygap remains an issue. It was highlighted that poverty is not a choice, and everyone has the right not to be poor. In order to cease poverty, one should have full ownership of life planning, and dealing with poverty shall be considered as fulfilling right rather than charity.

Key policies and programs targeting at EU, Council of Europe and UN levels outline a number of interventions in Europe and the world. Developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating policies and programs on youth is crucial in understanding the framework of contributing to youth rights.

The Erasmus+ program is funded by the EU to provide to over 4 million Europeans the opportunity to gain competences and have a personal, socio educational and professional development through studies, raining, work experiences or volunteering abroad. The EU Youth Strategy lays out a framework for European cooperation in the youth field in the period of 2010-2018, adding here that youth policy is a national competence of member states. The EU Youth Guarantee is a scheme that aims to ease the transition from education to employment by ensuring that all young people aged 25 or under, get a good – quality offer of employment, training or further education within 4 months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.

The Council of Europe (Committee of Ministers) has adopted two key recommendations relating to young people’s rights: CM/Rec(2016)7 on Young People’s Access to Rights and CM/Rec(2015)3 on Access of Young People from Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods to Social Rights. The latter focuses on policies to preent and eradicate the porverty, discrimination, violence and exclusion faced by young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the former covers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rigths providing guidance to states.

The United Nations adopted in 1996 and updated in 2007, the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) outlines 15 priority areas of action. In 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2250 (UNSCR 2250) on Youth, Peace, and Security.

Following the thematic sessions a final report will be put together by the European Youth Forum with the inputs and contributions of the youth representatives. The report aims to recommend measures at international level – such as member states, the UN Human Rights Council – that would facilitate support the realization of young people’s rights.

ANTIGYPSYISM IN AUSTRIA

ANTIGYPSYISM IN AUSTRIA

We are happy to announce that our member from Austria Romano Centro published the third report on Antigypsyism in Austria that covers the period from November 2015 to October 2017.

Like the other two publications from 2013 and 2015, this report also follows a twofold objective: 1. Awareness of the wide public on the issue of antigypsyism. 2. Empower the people who are affected by antigypsyism to report the incidents and to defend themselves.

The report in hand is not a scientific study. Instead, it is a depiction of individual incidents that were reported to the Romano Centro and other counselling centres.  The reports include statements about the frequency of antigypsyist incidents and cover different areas where most of these types of incidents take place.

The report incorporates Reference Paper on Antigypsyism published in 2016 by the The Alliance against Antigypsyism that describes key features and manifestations of the phenomenon.

Read here the report ANTIGYPSYISM in Austria

European Semester 2018: Will EU Members States include Roma in their National Reform Programmes?

European Semester 2018: Will EU Members States include Roma in their National Reform Programmes?

On 22 November the European Commission launched the 2018 Autumn Package of the European Semester, the first step in the annual cycle of economic and social policy coordination between the EU Members States and the Commission.

Each year, the European Commission produces an analysis of each country’s situation in a number of policy areas, including social policies. These “country reports”, together with the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) drafted by national governments, lay the ground for the so-called Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs), which advise national governments on measures to take in their future policies. The country reports for 2018 will be released in February 2018.

Regularly the countries with large Roma populations (e.g. Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) receive the recommendation to speed up the implementation of their national Roma integration strategies and ensure that Roma are not left behind. So far, however, these recommendations were hardly taken into account.

In the Annual Growth Survey the European Commission sets out general policies and social priorities for the year ahead.  After a few years of focusing on macroeconomic reforms, for 2018 the survey finally highlights again the importance of social issues and brings up the importance of an integrated approach for the inclusion of vulnerable groups. This reflects the recently adopted European Pillar of Social Rights and gives hope that it will be taken seriously by the European Commission and Member States.

According to the Annual Growth Survey the top priorities for 2017-2018 relevant for Roma are:

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
  • Promoting well-functioning labour markets and modern welfare systems
  • Job creation and fair working conditions
  • Social protection and inclusion to tackle inequality and poverty

ERGO Network hopes that the European Commission will continue to give priority to social issues in the next steps of the 2018 European Semester and will not overlook Roma in its country-specific recommendations as the most excluded minority in Europe. The implementation of the EU Roma Framework with its National Roma Integration Strategies should be supported by the European Semester.

ERGO Network urges the European Commission and the Members States that their response to social problems should not only be linked to employment, but also to the rise of antigypsyist attitudes that Roma are facing daily and that impediment their wellbeing in all spheres of their life.

More on the European Semester here.

Opening up Communities, Closing down Institutions

Opening up Communities, Closing down Institutions: Harnessing the European Structural and Investment Funds

On 22nd November 2017, ERGO Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova took part in an event of the initiative Community Living for Europe: Structural Funds Watch, where a report on the use of EU funds for community leaving was launched. The event took part in the European Parliament and was co-hosted by Mairead McGuinness, MEP (EPP) and Vice President of the European Parliament and Iskra Mihaylova, MEP (ALDE) and Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Regional Development.Regarding children, evidence shows that a caring and protective family, immediate and extended, is central to a child’s health, development, and protection. Community living is a human right, recognised under European and international law. However, Roma children are overrepresented in institutional care, confirming that poverty is the chief cause of children being separated from their families and placed in institutions.

The report analyses the role of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) with respect to the transition from institutional to community-based living for children and young people, including those with disabilities, adults with disabilities and older persons in EU Member States. It contains examples, both positive and negative, that demonstrate how the Member States have implemented the ESIF regulations, how they are currently using or are planning to use the ESIF to support the transition to community-based living, and provides concrete recommendations for the current and next funding period post 2020.

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova from ERGO Network brought the Roma perspective to the launch event. Children and young people make up almost half of today’s Roma population in Europe (around 35.7% under 15 years compared to 15% of the majority population). Investing in deinstitutionalisation is therefore an investment into Europe’s future generation that will yield very high returns. There is however a lack of preventive measures to stop institutionalisation of Roma children, as the number of social workers who support discriminated and poor families is insufficient and investment into community projects is extremely scarce.

She pointed out that new kinds of services need to be created that are adapted to the needs of the people, who should be involved in the design of these services. Only when beneficiaries have their say, the use of European Structural and Investment Funds can really be effectively used for social inclusion measures. This must of course include Roma beneficiaries, as they are often a main target for social inclusion measures.

The initiative Community Living for Europe looked in particular into the effect of the ex-ante conditionality 9.1 that demands Member States to invest in de-institutionalisation when using European Structural and Investment Funds. Also for Roma an ex-ante conditionality (9.2) is in place. It demands Member States to have a national Roma integration strategy in place if they want to access ESIF. As with conditionality 9.1. on active inclusion however, also in the Roma field having a strategy in place does not mean that it will also be implemented. A change in policy is therefore necessary that puts more emphasis on quality of implementation of social investment measures in EU member states.

ERGO and its member organisations will continue to monitor the use of ESIF for the social inclusion and poverty reduction of Roma and greatly appreciates the report issued by Community Living for Europe: Structural Funds Watch.

You can find the report here: https://eustructuralfundswatchdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/cle-sfw_opening-up-communities-november-2017_final.pdf

Investing in our future: what work(s) for young Roma

ERGO Network asks European leaders and Member States to better invest in Roma youth employment

At a panel debate organised by ERGO Network on Monday (27/11/2017) preceding the 11th Meeting of the European Platform for Roma Inclusion, European policy makers and civil society representatives discussed what is needed to better support young Roma on the labour market.

Youth unemployment in the EU has decreased in 2016 – good news after years of economic recession. However, for young Roma the situation is not at all the same. The rate of young Roma not in education, employment or training (NEET) has risen in almost all Member States with a high Roma population: 63 % of Roma aged 16-24 are not in employment, education or training, compared with the 12 % EU average on the NEET rate for the same age group.

During the debate, Simona Torotcoi, researcher in the Central European University, presented a research study prepared with members in ERGO Network. The young people interviewed expressed as greatest obstacles the lack of quality education and training, which is in many cases influenced by school segregation of Roma and a high drop-out rate. But also the generally bad labour market situation in their area with salaries below a living wage and antigypsyism by employers play a big role for their situation. Torotcoi pointed out: “The most surprising finding was that young Roma have internalised antigypsyism so much that they told us Roma are lazy, even though only a small number of them have ever refused a job”.

Dominique Bé, Policy Officer in DG Employment and Social Affairs,

remarked that the lack of access to quality education was the main factor for Roma youth unemployment. “Many employers are willing to employ Roma if they have the right skillset; therefore the biggest change needs to happen in the education systems”.

There is a lot of pessimism when it comes to Roma employment, but ERGO’s study showed that young Roma are motivated to work and that positive examples of employment measures exist. Melinda Kassai from ERGO Member Pro Cseherat presented the example of a community gardening project in Hungary that supports the income of rural Roma communities in a sustainable way. She explained that with some more investment, projects like this could be up-scaled and transferred to many similar communities in order to yield positive results both for Roma and non-Roma.

Thorsten Afflerbach, Head of Division for the Roma and Travelers Team in the Council of Europe, expressed the need for a better exchange between national governments on employment measures that have proven to be successful and in this regard welcomed ERGO’s research that presents 10 promising practices identified by grassroots organisations.

For ERGO Network it is essential that young Roma themselves are involved in the design of effective policies and measures that can improve their situation on the labour market, as beneficiaries know best what support they need. In the framework of the research project, young Roma ask their national governments to invest more in youth entrepreneurship, improve the cooperation between public employment services, NGOs and educational institutions, ensure a decent level of wages and combat antigypsyism on the labour market.

Such measures would not be possible without the EU’s support and assistance to the Member States through its key actions and financing. ERGO Network passes on these messages to the 11th EU Roma Platform and urges the European Union to put greater emphasis on young Roma in its employment, education and Roma policies and programmes. This includes a revision of the European Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative to give particular attention to hard-to-reach groups, inclusion of specific targets for Roma employment in the Social Scoreboard of the European Pillar of Social Rights and concrete strategies to combat antigypsyism on the labour market.

Please find more information on the research ‘Investing in our Future’: What work(s) for young Roma here.