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.

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.

Invitation: Public event on Roma youth employment

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

ERGO Network Public event

Monday 27th November, Mundo B, Brussels

09:00 – 12:30, followed by networking lunch

Equality of employment opportunities for young Roma is fair and just, but also a smart economic choice: It is an effective way to improve growth prospects and respond to the demographic challenge of rapidly ageing populations in EU Member States. Investing in young Roma breaks the cycle of poverty, discrimination and exclusion. It can yield high returns and can deliver the kind of lasting change that many policies and programmes have so far failed to achieve.

At ERGO’s Public Event, we will discuss the issue with representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Europe, present qualitative research done by ERGO members in five EU member states on youth employment measures and launch a campaign to mobilise support for investing in employment opportunities for young Roma.

The campaign will be centred on views and messages of young Roma themselves. We aim to convince decision-makers to support employment of young Roma and break the stigma that Roma do not want or can work. The campaign aims to make clear that young Roma want to work and can have opportunities, if sufficient investment is done and they receive the right support.

Download the programme here.

Please confirm your participation by 21st November here.

Call for RomaReact Online Competition

“Investing in our future: What work(s) for young Roma?”

DEADLINE EXTENDED!!

Participate, compete, win, travel to Brussels and present your story at ERGO Network’s public event in November!

To win, just follow three easy steps:

  • Share either an inspiring or a challenging story with one image (photo, painting, drawing or graphic), a video or a short story.
  • Upload your entry to the RomaReact platform by midnight, 5th November.
  • Wait to hear the results. If you win, we will see you in Brussels on 26/27 November 2017!

To submit your material, register at https://romareact.org/loginpage/. Then click on +New on the top of the RomaReact website and create a new post to upload your media and/or submit your story.

What is this contest about?

The competition is part of the launch of ERGO Network`s campaign “Investing in our future: What work(s) for young Roma?” to raise awareness of the obstacles young Roma face on the labour market and convince EU decision makers and national governments to invest in Roma youth employment.

The aim of this competition is to hear about striking and inspiring stories of Roma youth employment and to share your experiences with a broader public.

ERGO Network is inviting RomaReact followers to participate in our online competition and the launch of the campaign. We are looking for both inspiring and challenging examples and testimonies in employment. You can use a selection of genres to share your story: edit a video, write an essay, take a photo or draw a graphic.

The contest will close at midnight, Sunday 5th November.

Which stories are we looking for?

Think personal, think creative, think effective:

Share an interesting and inspiring story that had a positive or negative impact on you and/or your community. What support did you get in finding a job? What efforts did you take to get employed? What problems did you face? You can tell us your own story or capture the story of your neighbor, friend, cousin…

If you take part in the competition with an image, don’t forget to write a few lines explaining the image.

Convince the audience that our stories and our voice matter.

Terms and Conditions

Participants

This contest is for young Roma (16 years-35) from a European Union member state.

Materials to be submitted:

  1. One entry per contestant is allowed. Please submit one photo, video, drawing or a short piece of writing.
  2. You need to submit your entry together with a short description (max 100 words) to www.Romareact.org. Additionally, please e-mail them together with your personal details (see annex) to info@ergonetwork.org.

Winner selection and announcement 

The winners in the contest will be selected by the ERGO Network team after the deadline of 31st  October. Two winners will be invited to Brussels to present their story at ERGO Network`s public event on 27th November, before the start of the European Roma Platform. All costs (including travel from an EU member state, a guided city tour, accommodation, food) will be covered.

You warrant and undertake that entries submitted will not infringe intellectual property, privacy or any other right of any third party. You must ensure that any person or persons whose image, video or writing is used in an entry has given valid consent for the use of it or has waived any rights they may have in the material submitted. Failure to adequately demonstrate such consent may result in the entrant’s disqualification and forfeiture of any prize.

By participating, you agree to these terms and conditions and to the decisions of the selection committee, whose decisions are final and binding in all respects.

Further advice, information, assistance: info@ergonetwork.org

You can download here the call as pdf document.

ERGO Summer Academy showcases campaign ideas for Roma youth employment

In ERGO’s Summer Academy, taking place from 26 August to 2 September in Barcelona, a group of outstanding participants from across Europe joined forces to work together on a thematic campaign to raise awareness on Roma youth unemployment. The one-week long ERGO Summer Academy hosted 19 young professionals alongside the team of ERGO Network and guest trainers from Greece and Bulgaria.

The academy invited participants to join as experts from ERGO member organisations, other Roma NGOs and local or national administrations to discuss emerging issues of social exclusion, education and employment, and what a multi-stakeholder agenda for quality education and better employment can achieve regarding Roma youth.

Raising awareness on the plight of Roma youth employment has never been more important: 58% of Roma aged 16 to 24 are not in employment, education or training. At the same time, in countries such as Romania or Bulgaria up to 20% of new labour market entrants are Roma.  The new financial cycle of the European Commission will start in 2021, thus reminding decision-makers on what is at stake is of great importance.

The participants used the Academy to create an awareness raising campaign that will be launched at this year’s EU Roma Platform in Brussels.  The work started with differentiating the terminology and discussing the issues relevant to the context of employment. After hearing experiences and personal stories of participants, the group gained first-hand knowledge on the employment context in Barcelona through the initiatives of `FAGIC`, a Catalonian Roma network. To conclude the learning part of the week, Leonor Rebassa from Amnesty International introduced the group to all to the very details and best practices of thorough campaign planning.

In the second half of the week, innovative ideas for an ERGO youth employment campaign were brought to the table from working groups. In the last two days, it started to be clear what the campaign will look like, and finally, 4 initiatives made it to realization. They will be launched at this year’s European Roma Platform, which will be held in Brussels on 27/28 November on the topic of ‘Transition from Education to Employment’. ERGO’s campaign will focus on antigypsyism and discrimination on the labour market and addresses decision-makers and employers from the perspective of young Roma themselves.

Besides all their hard work, the participants of the event soon acclimatized to the fantastically located venue of Mare de Deu del Coll, and enjoyed mid-summer heat from the very early mornings till late nights that left enough time for networking between ERGO’s members and making new friends. Not only the sea at Barceloneta, but the whole week has been a refreshing experience to all participants.