|In the summer of 2003, the World Bank and the Open Society Institute organized
a conference in Budapest to support the integration of Roma into European economic
and social sectors. The conference also sought to raise public awareness of economic
development challenges facing Roma in the region and to identify policies and
programs that can address issues of poverty and discrimination. Contributions
by Roma organizations were central to the success of the conference. Roma participants
discussed policy innovations and lessons from existing projects that may improve
Roma access to education, employment, and healthcare.
As part of the World Bank’s Human Development Learning Week, young Roma delegates
to the conference presented their perspectives on two planned iniatives, the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 and the Roma Education Fund. During the event,
the young leaders described their ideas for next steps to improve the living conditions
and economic and social opportunities of Roma in Europe. The event was chaired
by Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director, World Bank, who commented on the
importance of inclusion in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and noted
that populations, such as the Roma, cannot be overlooked if the MDGs are to be
reached. She also cited the growing recognition of the importance of children
and youth issues in attaining the MDGs and how these issues are also essential
to improving living conditions for Roma in Europe.
Buhar Taho, United Nations Development Programme, provided an overview
of the Roma in Albania. He noted that since the fall of communism, Roma living
standards have fallen considerably. He then described several initiatives that
have been adopted recently to address these issues. As an outcome of the Budapest
conference, Albania adopted a National Strategy for Roma. This program identified
several priority areas for addressing Roma needs including training and education,
cultural heritage, employment, and public health. Taho also described how other
Roma programs are being integrated into regional development strategies. He then
commented on challenges for improving the social inclusion of Roma in Albania.
Nikolay Kolev, Pakiv European Roma Fund, described the Roma situation in
Bulgaria and noted that less than one percent of Roma in the country complete
university level education. He then focused on recommendations for improving access
to education and income. In regards to improving access to incomes, he cited the
need for policies and approaches to stimulate family businesses (and access to
credit), agribusiness, and job creation as essential. He noted that because the
Roma are a diverse population, programs should be decentralized and focused at
the local level. In regards to education, he noted that the primary focus should
be on primary schools, the promotion of school attendance, and improvement of
school conditions, as well as, appropriate materials for Roma students. Other
focus areas should be increasing Roma enrollment in universities and parental
participation in local school boards.
Gabriela Hrabanova, Roma Information Project, provided an overview of the
Czech declaration on the Decade of Roma Inclusion. She noted that the declaration
emphasizes the need to address housing, health care, education, and unemployment.
It also addresses social problems including high unemployment, crime, and a lack
of school attendance. Hrabanova said overcoming these problems will require a
greater emphasis on coalition building with NGOs to support training
of Roma facilitators in Roma communities. These facilitators will serve as mediators
between Roma families and local governments. Leadership training for Roma leaders
will give them the skills to participate in decision-making processes and advocacy.
In addition, teachers working in the Roma community should have more access to
training about Roma culture and language.
Judit Bari, Pakiv European Roma Fund, described a vision for a successful
decade of the Roma which would foster greater inclusion and economic and political
participation. To ensure that this happens, Bari said that more attention should
be paid to monitoring. Moreover, there should be independent monitoring and yearly
reports that provide feedback on action plans.
Enisa Eminova, Roma Information Project, noted that Roma integration cannot
happen on its own. She then provided a brief overview of Roma in Macedonia and
the political context. In particular, she described a new peace agreement which
provides for the greater integration of ethnic minorities in Macedonian society.
She noted that for this to be successful, all parties must be involved and a team
of Roma and non-Roma must be assembled to prepare for a successful Decade of Roma
Inclusion. She then described the tasks that various groups would perform to develop
policy, advise the government on policy, develop a national strategy, establish
knowledge sharing processes between Roma and government ministries, and guide
the drafting of the first national strategy for Roma in Macedonian.
Delia Grigore, Roma Center for Public Society, described the main problems
facing Roma in Romania. She noted that the problems are linked to two main issues,
social exclusion and racial discrimination. She noted that three-quarters of all
Roma live in poverty in Romania and that life expectancy is 20 years lower for
Roma. She then described a proposal to establish an international joint body to
promote and monitor polices supported by the Decade of Roma Inclusion and Roma
Petar Antic, Minority Rights Center, described the plight of Roma in Serbia
and Montenegro. He then explained draft strategies to address Roma issues in the
country. He listed four main sectors, designated by the Serbian delegation to
the Budapest conference, that should be addressed in the Decade of Roma Inclusion:
education, poverty reduction, decent housing, and discrimination. He stressed
that for these to be successful, the will of the governments and the cooperation
of NGOs will be essential.
Andrea Buckuva, Cultural Association of Roma of Slovakia, described the
Roma situation in Slovakia and the exclusion of Roma in education, employment,
housing, health, and social services. She listed recommendations for the Roma
Education Fund and the Decade of Roma Inclusion. Gyula Vamosi, Roman Information
Project, described how Roma could be included in decision-making, monitoring,
and evaluation processes.