This week, the Czech Republic is officially taking over the rotating presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, an international initiative whose goal is to improve the living conditions of the Roma across Europe.
The initiative brings together the governments of twelve European countries along with intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations “to accelerate progress toward improving the welfare of Roma.“ The parnter organizations include the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, the United Nations Development Program, the the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Council of Europe, European Roma Information Office, and the European Roma Rights Centre.
According to the Decade of Roma Inclusion website, “the Decade focuses on the priority areas of education, employment, health, and housing, and commits governments to take into account the other core issues of poverty, discrimination, and gender mainstreaming.“
Now midway through the project, the reactions among Roma activists and community members vary, but veer on the side of skepticism.
Today I spoke to Ivan Veselý, head of the Dženo Association and member of the Decade of Roma Inclusion steering committee. Mr. Veselý has been with the intiative since its planning phase and has been so invested in the Decade that he calls the initiative “his child.“
“The initial aim of the Decade was two-fold,“ says Mr. Veselý. “One goal was to demand that member governments change their policies toward the Roma minority. The second major goal was to jumpstart a Roma rights movement across Europe.“
When asked about the effectiveness of the the Decade, he curses, expressing deep disappointment. He feels that the intiative was implemented without the necessary preliminary capacity building and that the efforts towards Roma inclusion are mostly conferences, declarations, reports, and more words; not enough action.
The goals for each country that is part of the Decade have been outlined, measurable indicators set, but, so far, there are few results.
“The main problem,“ says Mr. Veselý, “ is that no money has been allocated by the Czech government to achieve the Decade’s aims.“
During Czech Republic’s presidency, the priorities are: inclusive education (contrary to the current practice of unjustly segragating large numbers of Romany children in schools for the mentally handicapped); children’s living situations and their rights; the empowerment of Romany women; the implementation of local-level integration policies; and improving the image of Roma in the media.
The action plan for the Czech Republic comprises objectives such as providing Romany students equal access to pre-school as well as higher education; training educators in multicultural teaching methods; preventing residential segregation; increasing access of low-income Roma families to affordable housing; and boosting the employability and employment rates of the Roma through training, incentives and investment aimed at the creation of Roma-run small business enterprises.
What many, including Mr. Veselý, would like to see and have been advocating is a systemic change which begins with a firm, sustained, long-term committment on the part of the government. Such committment must take the form of allocation of a sufficient amount of money, so that the carefully crafted action plan can be implemented in all key sectors and throughout all regions.
Posted By Tereza Bottman
Posted Jun 25th, 2010