An organisation able to respond better and more effectively to the needs of Europe’s Roma communities.
That was Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland’s message to ministers meeting in Istanbul this week, to discuss the Council of Europe’s activities since last October’s Strasbourg Declaration on Roma.
A report to governments claims that the appointment of a ‘Roma Tsar,’ a new transversal approach and better cooperation between concerned agencies within the organisation were “bearing fruit.”
The budget devoted to Roma issues has increased from €270,000 to €720, 300 in 2011. Voluntary contributions to aid Roma projects increased finances by a further €380,000, with more investment likely from the Council of Europe’s partnership with the European Commission (ROMED Programme).
A mediators project has also been established, to provide education, health and employment community liason officers. Since March 2011, in-country training sessions have successfully been launched in Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, ”the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Italy, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Kosovo out of the initial group of 15 beneficiaries of the Roma programme.
The report states: “The new curriculum aiming to promote real and effective intercultural mediation has proven to be effective and well adapted to the actual needs of the mediators.
“Although it is at this stage too early to evaluate the impact of the mediation between the Roma community and the public institutions and local authorities, initial signs and feedback received from the actors concerned is positive.”
An effective access to justice project will see the provision of “appropriate and targeted training” to lawyers based on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Social Charter.
The organisation has also boosted awareness of Roma issues through its Dosta! Campaign and developed international steering groups to help the 12-15 million strong pan-European Roma community.
An International Congress of Roma Women, scheduled for Spain next November, will reinforce the Council of Europe’s commitment to gender equality.
The report cautions that “it is still too early to examine the impact of the activities organised on Roma issues.” However it notes that “it can be ascertained that the new approach is leading to better communication and cooperation between sectors, thus increasing synergies by means of combining actions whilst avoiding duplication and reducing costs.”
The report concludes with a call for more concerted political action to help Roma communities. “While good progress has been made so far in the implementation of the Strasbourg Declaration, there are still very important challenges ahead in ensuring full integration of Roma communities in our societies, based on equal participation and equal rights.
“To this end, strong efforts will be necessary to build up further the capacity of member states’ authorities to adopt and implement effective policies in this area, especially at regional and local level, and to combat anti-Gypsyism and discrimination.”
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