Roma and Environmental Racism: The Role of the EU Strategic Framework in Ensuring Environmental Rights and Dignity

Roma and Environmental Racism: The Role of the EU Strategic Framework in Ensuring Environmental Rights and Dignity

Under International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the ERGO Network and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) organised an online joint policy launching event on Environmental Justice in Roma Communities and the EU Roma Strategic Framework on 29 January 2024 from 14:00 to 16:30.

🗓️Date: 29.01.2024

🕒 Time: 14:00-16:30 CET

🌐 Location: Online

Last autumn, the EEB and the ERGO Network collaborated to host the inaugural Environmental Justice Conference for Roma communities in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The event arose as a natural response to the EU’s recognition of environmental justice in October 2020, signified by the adoption of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation – a pioneering policy document which notably highlights the imperative for environmental justice within the EU. 

This collaboration was now followed up on the framework of the Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th by a joint EEB/ERGO event on environmental justice in Roma communities and the EU Roma Strategic Framework.

The event aimed to launch several policy products developed by the European Environmental Bureau and the ERGO Network, including the joint report on Environmental Justice in National Roma Strategic Frameworks, the EEB Case studies on Environmental Racism and the Basic Principles of Environmental Justice and Roma communities as a main outcome of our October Environmental Justice Conference in Cluj, Romania.

The event heightened awareness about the imperative to monitor the repercussions of environmental racism on Roma communities. This monitoring spans the National Roma Strategic Frameworks and wider EU Environmental policies and programs, emphasizing a commitment to a human rights baseline— a fundamental principle of environmental justice.

Lastly, the event endeavoured to actively involve stakeholders in this crucial dialogue to continue to work ahead in 2024.

We thank all the participants of the event. For those who were not able to attend, please note that you can still view the recorded event on the ERGO Facebook page:

Agenda of the event

13:30 – 14:00 Registration and online connection

Moderator: Stephanie Richani, Advocacy Lead, Equinox Racial Justice Initiative  -Equinox

14:00 – 14:15 Opening remarks and purpose of the meeting

  •  Gabriela Hrabanova, Director ERGO Network
  •  Patrizia Heidegger, Director EEB
  •  MEP Romeo Franz, Greens/EFA, Germany

14:15 – 15:10 ERGO & EEB report on Environmental Justice in NRSFs  

  • Isabela Mihalache, ERGO Network
  • Dan Doghi, European Commission, DG JUST
  • Magda Boulabiza, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, ENAR
  • Discussion

15:10 – 16:10 EEB case studies and Basic principles on Roma and Environmental justice

  • Diego Marin, Policy Officer for Raw Materials and Resource Justice, EEB
  • William Acker, National Association of Citizen Travellers (ANGVC) – Case
    study in France
  • Francesc Cots, Energy & Climate Manager, Eco-union, Spain – Case study in
    Spain
  • Discussion

16:10 – 16:30 Conclusions and follow-up

  • MEP Patricia Caro Maya, The Left group in the European Parliament
    GUE/NGL, Member LIBE Committee, Spain (video message)
  • Patrizia Heidegger, Director EEB

Background

The European Commission and EU Member States have set guidelines to combat antigypsyism through the EU Roma Strategic Framework, adopted in 2020, and the Council Recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion, and participation. This strategic framework focuses on three pillars: equality with the broader society, social and economic inclusion, and active participation in various aspects of life.

A significant development within this framework is the inclusion of environmental justice guidelines for Member States. It calls for recognition and action against environmental discrimination affecting marginalized Roma communities in segregated areas, representing a groundbreaking acknowledgement of the connection between racial discrimination and environmental challenges faced by the Roma, such as the lack of access to essential services – including tap water, safe and clean drinking water, adequate sanitation, waste collection and management services, and other environmental services.

As of January 2023, the European Commission’s assessment of National Roma Strategic Frameworks reveals that several Member States address improving access to essential services, notably running water. However, there is a limited inclusion of both mainstream and targeted measures for social housing access. Some strategies focus on official procedures for urban development, residential upgrading, home ownership encouragement, and infrastructure investment in areas like electricity, gas, water, sewage, waste management, roads, and transport access. 

Furthermore, a report organised by the EEB as a follow-up to our 2020 “Pushed to the Wastelands” focusing on Eastern Europe provides detailed case studies of environmental racism in Western Europe. Both reports collectively assert that environmental racism is a pan-European issue, underscoring that countries are ill-prepared to address contemporary issues leading to environmental injustices, let alone that member states are inadequately responding to future ecological challenges for Roma communities.

The most recent report on the topic, produced jointly by ERGO Network and EEB will be presented at the event on 29 January, titled “Environmental Justice in National Strategic Frameworks.” It delves into the critical intersection of environmental justice and the inclusion of Roma communities in Europe. The comprehensive analysis begins by outlining the policy context, emphasising the significance of environmental justice concerning Roma inclusion. Recognising the historical oversight, the report highlights the adverse environmental conditions faced by Roma and Traveller communities, from living near pollution sources to discriminatory housing practices. The introduction stresses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the vulnerability of marginalised communities due to limited access to essential environmental services.

The report then focuses on the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation, adopted in October 2020, marking a crucial milestone in addressing environmental justice within EU policy. The subsequent development of National Roma Strategic Frameworks by Member States is examined, focusing on social inclusion areas such as education, employment, healthcare, and housing. The analysis aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how environmental justice is addressed within these frameworks, considering direct environmental aspects and related proxies like access to housing and utilities.

Additionally, the report identifies good practices at the national level and offers recommendations to Member States for enhancing their strategies, emphasising the need for collaborative discussions among stakeholders to address the risks and impacts of environmental racism and discrimination faced by Roma and Traveller communities.

The Common Basic Principles for Environmental Justice for Roma emerged through deliberations with community representatives, civil society members, practitioners, and academics engaged in Roma rights issues during the first Environmental Justice for Roma Conference held in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, on October 11th, 2023. Rooted in equity, inclusivity, and justice, the principles address historical and ongoing environmental injustices Roma populations face.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on environmental justice, please contact Senior Advocacy Officer Isabela Mihalache.

ERGO Network Annual Policy Conference 2023

IMPLEMENTING THE EU ROMA STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK. ROMA ACCESS TO QUALITY AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING

This past 28 November 2023, ERGO Network organised its annual Policy Conference in Brussels, dedicated to exploring how to improve Roma access to adequate, affordable, quality, and inclusive housing, as well as to taking stock of the implementation of the EU and National Roma Frameworks, with a particular focus on housing and environmental justice.

The conference featured keynote interventions from Annelisa Cotone, coordinator for Roma inclusion in the cabinet of European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, Hon. Peter Pollák MEP (Slovakia, EPP), as well as Paul Divakar Namala, from the Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent.  

Many Roma still live in informal settlements and segregated neighbourhoods, in inadequate dwellings and disastrous living conditions, with severe environmental consequences. Unable to meet ever-rising housing costs or to prove legal ownership of their home, they endure forced evictions, homelessness, and antigypsyism from local authorities, landlords, and neighbours. Ensuring access to housing and adequate services is an objective of the EU Roma Strategic Framework, while it is also extensively covered by the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar), the compass for Europe’s recovery, and supported by Goals 6, 7, 11, 13 and 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The event launched ERGO Network’s research report on “Roma access to quality and affordable housing”, based on six national case studies carried out in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. Additional benchmarking evidence was provided by ERGO Network members in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Türkiye. The main findings and recommendations aim to kick-start a dialogue with key decision-makers and stakeholders and aim to identify positive solutions to support better housing inclusion for Roma and inform the delivery of the EU Roma Strategic Framework and the Social Pillar, as well as other relevant policy initiatives.

The Key Messages of the report are:

  1. Roma living conditions are significantly worse than those of the majority, while most Roma experience de facto homelessness.
  2. Most Roma live in segregated communities and/or informal settlements, many exposed to environmental hazards.
  3. High costs of housing and overcomplex administrative procedures further reduce Roma access to housing.
  4. The Roma continue to face antigypsyism and forced evictions.
  5. Social housing holds great potential for Roma housing but is currently under-utilised.
  6. Roma communities and their civil society organisations must be involved to co-create sustainable ways forward.

With the adoption of the EU Roma Strategic Framework up to 2030, governments were asked to develop national Roma strategic frameworks both in EU Member States and Western Balkan countries. In addition, civil society in EU Member States received funding from the European Commission to monitor these national strategic frameworks’ elaboration and adoption process. To ensure an effective implementation of the national frameworks, robust and continued monitoring of the entire policy process should be ensured.

The second part of the event assessed the state of play of the National Roma Frameworks in the EU and Enlargement countries and their alignment with the EU Roma Strategic Framework on Equality, Inclusion, and Participation. It linked Council Recommendation, with a keen focus on the areas of housing and environmental justice, also looking at follow-up steps to ensure that implementation does not overlook these important aspects.

The conference was very well attended with over 75 on-site and online participants, and it brought together ERGO Network national members from the grassroots level in many European countries, other national practitioners, European civil society organisations, policy-makers from the EU and national levels, and other stakeholders.

If you attended this event or watched the recording, don’t forget to let us know what you think about it by filling out this brief Evaluation Form (project reference: 101104354; event title: ERGO Network Annual Policy Conference).

See more:

Visuals provided by Ale Listens and Draws

For more information about this event, please don’t hesitate to contact us: info@ergonetwork.org

Register now for ERGO Network’s Annual Policy Conference!

Register now for ERGO Network’s Annual Policy Conference!

At a time when Europe is facing multiple crises such as the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the ever-rising cost of living, many Roma find themselves experiencing worsening poverty and exclusion, dire living conditions, and widespread antigypsyism.

The event will serve to launch ERGO Network’s research report on “Roma access to quality and affordable housing”, based on six national case studies carried out in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, with additional benchmarking evidence from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Türkiye.

The conference will also provide insights into the status of implementation of the National Roma Frameworks both in the EU and enlargement countries, their alignment with the EU Roma Strategic Framework on Equality, Inclusion, and Participation and linked Council Recommendation, with a particular focus on housing and environmental justice.

The event will bring together ERGO Network members from the grassroots level, EU policy-makers from across the institutional spectrum, as well as other relevant EU and national stakeholders.

  • Check out the draft agenda here.
  • Register here by 25th November.

We’re looking forward to counting you among the participants, so that together we can build positive, sustainable, evidence-based policy solutions that work!

#ERGOConference2023

Catalysing Change: Advocacy for Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent at the United Nations

Catalysing Change: Advocacy for Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent at the United Nations

In September 2023 rights expert Simona Torotcoi represented ERGO Network within the Global Forum of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent delegation during the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which included the SDG Action Weekend and the SDG Summit 2023.

Discrimination based on work and descent is any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on inherited status such as caste, including present or ancestral occupation, family, community or social origin, name, birthplace, place of residence, dialect and accent that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life. This type of discrimination is typically associated with the notion of purity and pollution and practices of untouchability, and is deeply rooted in societies and cultures where this discrimination is practised” (Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent, Human Rights Council 11th Session, 18 May 2009)

The SDG Action Weekend provided opportunities for stakeholders, UN entities, and Member States to convene at the United Nations Headquarters and make specific commitments to drive SDG transformation from now until 2030. On September 16, speaking at “Breaking Down the Barriers to Leave No One Behind” GFoD delegate Beena Pallical emphasized the importance of the UN and member states embracing the SDGs, particularly addressing communities discriminated against based on work and descent, including Dalits, Roma, and other marginalised groups.

During the “From the SDG Summit to the Summit of the Future: Building the UN We Need” session, Paul Divakar, the convener of GFoD, stressed the significance of combating discrimination and exclusion of communities such as the Roma in Europe, Haratins in Africa, Quilambola in Brazil, Buraku in Japan, and other marginalised communities.

Simona Torotcoi, representing ERGO Network and GFoD, spoke at the Minority Rights Group International side event, “Invisible No Longer: Data Solutions to Leaving No One Behind Dilemmas.”

She addressed the critical issue of the lack of disaggregated data for Roma and other Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent, which affects the implementation and reporting of SDGs and ongoing policy work within the European Union related to Roma communities. 

Disaggregated data is essential for understanding inequalities and evaluating progress in Roma inclusion policies. It empowers decision-makers, holds civil society accountable, and enables communities to advocate for changes in policies directly affecting them. Simona stressed the importance of engaging Roma communities in data collection, analysis, and usage, moving beyond formal consultations.

On the 20th of September, GFoD organised a side event titled “Broad-Caste” A light on Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent at the SDG midpoint & beyond. It brought together key governmental representatives, such as the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal Mr N. P Saud, who pointed out the fact that the SDGs do not mention discrimination based on work and descent and this poses significant challenges to achieving the SDGs agenda: “The world cannot move towards peaceful and inclusive societies and achieve the 2030 Agenda without addressing the root causes of discrimination which more than 270 million people”. 

The Minister emphasized that this discrimination affects more than 270 million people globally, extending beyond specific geographical areas and impacting communities like Haratine in the Sahel, Forgeron in West Africa, Roma in Europe, Burakumin in Japan, Dalits in South Asia, Quilambolo and Palenque in South America, and others.

To address these shortcomings and rectify the omission of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD) in key UN frameworks, the Minister expressed full support for GFoD’s efforts to work toward a UN Resolution addressing the discrimination faced by these communities. Nepal also expressed readiness to collaborate with concerned stakeholders.

The following day, GFoD co-organised another side event in partnership with UNDP, UNFPA, UNWomen, and Minority Rights International, titled “Anti-racism in UN Programming” (recorded). This event focused on what UN agencies can and should do to combat racism and include minorities in their policies and programs. Simona discussed the intersectional discrimination and oppression experienced by women from Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD), stemming from overlapping social constructs of ability, age, work, caste, class, and gender.

She urged the UN and its agencies to recognise the challenges faced by women from CDWD communities and adopt an intersectional approach in all programmes and policies, both within the United Nations and in their external programs. Simona also proposed establishing a working group to examine the normative standards and lived realities related to the protection of women from CDWS.

ERGO Network Annual Policy Conference 2022

IMPLEMENTING THE EU ROMA STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK. ROMA ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE AND LONG-TERM CARE

This past 23 November, ERGO Network organised its Annual Policy Conference, for the first time in person since 2019 but also fully streamed online for remote participants. This year’s event was dedicated to exploring how to improve Roma access to adequate, affordable, and inclusive healthcare and long-term care services, as well as to taking stock of the implementation of the EU and National Roma Frameworks.

A significant health inequality gap exists between the Roma and the majority population, across every area of physical and mental health and wellbeing, including rates of suicide, disability, life expectancy, and infant mortality. The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare and worsened a pre-existing dire situation. Ensuring access to healthcare and long-term care is a key topic under the European Pillar of Social Rights, the compass for Europe’s recovery, while it is also supported by Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. It is high time the European Union and national governments delivered.

First panel – Susanna Ulinski, Philippe Seidel, Marine Uldry, Kumar Vishwanathan, Tomas de Jong, Camille Butin

The first part of the event served to launch ERGO Network’s research report on “Roma access to healthcare and long-term care”, based on six national case studies carried out in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. The main findings and recommendations fed into a dialogue with key decision-makers and stakeholders, aimed at identifying positive solutions to support better health inclusion for Roma and inform the delivery on the EU Roma Strategic Framework and the Social Pillar, as well as on initiatives such as the European Care Strategy.

The Key Messages of the report are:

  1. In all 6 countries, social determinants greatly influence a poor Roma state of health.
  2. High costs of healthcare and long-term care and gaps in health insurance coverage are significant deterrents for the Roma to seek care.
  3. Limited healthcare and long-term care infrastructure and staff shortages are prevalent in rural and remote Roma communities.
  4. Roma health mediators play a key positive role which deserves better support.
  5. The Roma continue to face widespread antigypsyism in healthcare and long-term care.
  6. Roma communities and their civil society organisations must be involved in a bid to build trust and improve take-up.

With the adoption of the EU Roma Strategic Framework up to 2030, governments were asked to develop national Roma strategic frameworks both in EU Member States and Western Balkan countries. In addition, civil society in EU Member States received funding from the European Commission to engage in monitoring the elaboration and adoption process of these national frameworks. In order to ensure their effective implementation, a robust and continued monitoring of the entire policy process should be ensured.

Second panel – Zuzana Havirova, Sia Sararu, Adriatik Hasantari, Abriel Schieffelers

The second part of the event assessed the state of play of the newly adopted national Roma strategic frameworks in both the EU and enlargement countries and their alignment with the EU Roma Strategic Framework on Equality, Inclusion, and Participation and linked Council Recommendation, as well as of the Roma involvement in the drafting process. In addition, it discussed the follow-up steps in the implementation of the national Roma stratetic frameworks at EU and national levels.

The event ended with concluding remarks from the Czech Presidency of the European Union on the importance of dedicating more policy attention to access to healthcare, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the Roma, which should be seen in conjunction with the overall delivery on the EU Roma Framework and its objectives on housing, employment, education, and poverty, while closely associating Roma communities and their representatives to these efforts.

The conference was very well attended with over 70 on site and online participants, and it brought together ERGO Network national members from the grassroots level in many European countries, as well as other national practitioners, European civil society organisations, policy-makers from the EU and national levels, and other stakeholders.

If you attended this event, or watched the recording, don’t forget to let us know what you thought about it by filling in this brief Evaluation Form (project reference: 101051359; event title: ERGO Network Annual Policy Conference). Thank you!

See more:

Graphic facilitation provided by Ale Listens and Draws.

For more information about this event, please don’t hesitate to contact us: info@ergonetwork.org

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Past events – ERGO Network

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