By Deny Dobobrov - Director of International Relations
The Roma people have long been marginalized in European society, facing ongoing discrimination and exclusion from political decision-making processes. This is particularly apparent within the Council of Europe, where policy design and various initiatives have consistently fallen short of addressing the systemic challenges faced by the Roma community. In this blog post, we will discuss the shortcomings of past frameworks and initiatives, the competition amongst grassroots organizations for funding, and the World Roma Federation's decision to adopt a top-down approach to tackle these issues.
The Lack of Inclusion in Decision Making:
Historically, Roma representation within the Council of Europe has been minimal, leading to a lack of meaningful inclusion in policy design and program development. This exclusion from the political process has perpetuated a cycle where initiatives intended to serve the Roma community fail due to a fundamental lack of understanding about their unique needs and perspectives.
The Competitive Landscape of Grassroots Organizations:
Numerous grassroots organizations have emerged to address issues facing the Roma community, yet they often find themselves competing against each other for limited funding resources. This fragmentation hampers their ability to make significant progress and unite around collective goals.
Not only does this fragmentation hinder progress and unity amongst grassroots organizations, but it has also given rise to instances of corruption amongst some Roma activists and organizations. These corrupt individuals and groups prefer that the situation for the Roma community does not change, so they can continue benefiting from available funding and resources allocated to address their issues. This further exacerbates the challenges facing the Roma community and limits the effectiveness of ongoing efforts in achieving substantial change. As such, corruption within activism circles only serves to reinforce the systemic injustices faced by the Roma people in Europe.
Moreover, another problem that plagues the Roma community is the existence of favoritism among funding providers and Roma organizations. This favoritism can skew the distribution of resources, as it results in an unequal allocation of funds and support to certain organizations over others. Such biased treatment undermines the overall goal of addressing Roma issues and deepens the divide between different Roma groups, making it even more difficult to establish a united front for change. Consequently, the presence of favoritism not only prolongs the struggle for Roma inclusion in European politics but also intensifies the internal conflicts within the Roma community itself.
The World Roma Federation’s Top-Down Approach:
In an effort to circumvent these obstacles, the World Roma Federation has adopted a top-down approach instead of a traditional bottom-up strategy. This decision aims at consolidating efforts by advocating for systemic change at higher levels of governance while seeking increased Roma representation in European politics.
Addressing Poverty and Discrimination:
Despite various initiatives and programs in place, little has been done thus far to effectively tackle poverty and reduce discrimination against the Roma people. A key insight reveals that poverty and discrimination are cyclically interconnected—one begets the other. To break this cycle and achieve meaningful progress, it is essential to address both issues simultaneously.
To foster greater Roma inclusion in politics and decision-making processes, it is crucial to implement a strategy that addresses their systemic challenges head-on. By leveraging a top-down approach and emphasizing the importance of Roma representation in European politics, the World Roma Federation hopes to catalyze lasting change that benefits the entire Roma community while simultaneously addressing pervasive issues of poverty and discrimination. However, it is essential to recognize that allocating funds to initiatives like cultural awareness events, art, or cultural museums may not be the most effective use of resources; such efforts, while well-intentioned, could have been directed towards housing and employment opportunities for the Roma people. In the pursuit of meaningful progress, it is necessary to prioritize tangible improvements in living conditions and economic stability so that the cycle of marginalization and poverty experienced by the Roma community can finally be broken.