Our Focus on Roma Rights in the Western Balkans Intensifies

Photo: Armend Nimani, Kosovo.

Picture from the photo exhibition “Under the Same Roof”. Photo: Armend Nimani, Kosovo.

For more than a decade, Civil Rights Defenders has worked to strengthen the protection of civil and political rights for Roma in the Western Balkans and other regions in Europe. To more pro-actively support the Roma community, Civil Rights Defenders recently launched a new Roma rights programme to further empower Roma – and in particular, Romani women – by providing human rights trainings and legal protection.

To kick off this new initiative, Civil Rights Defenders is organising a three-day event entitled “A Decade of Roma Inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Challenges and Opportunities” in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina from 27-29 November. The event will gather around 35 Roma activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania to raise their capacities to combat stereotypes, discrimination and hate crimes in the Western Balkans region.

The topics to be discussed at the conference include discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes as well as global, regional and local mechanisms for combating discrimination. There will also be an intensive training on the efficient use of the media in mainstreaming Roma rights. Representatives of the Council of Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina will make opening remarks at the event.

‘’The problems Roma people face throughout the region are similar but could manifest themselves in different ways. That is why exchanging experiences is important, so that our partners can familiarise themselves with what lays ahead in their struggle for equality and respect for human rights of the Roma population in the region and so that they can share strategies to counter discrimination,’’ said Adi Sinani, Programme Officer for Roma Rights at Civil Rights Defenders.

In a newly established role as Programme Officer for Roma Rights, leading these efforts from Belgrade Adi Sinani will serve as a capacity building resource for Civil Rights Defenders partners. Working with local NGOs, he will follow and analyse the human rights situation of the Roma community in respective countries and the Western Balkans as well as initiate and participate in lobbying and advocacy actions with Roma organisations and human rights defenders.

John Stauffer, Legal Director at Civil Rights Defenders, who will be on site for the event in Sarajevo explained that ‘’The situation for Roma is very difficult in Serbia and other European countries. The new position in our Belgrade office brings in new expertise that significantly strengthens us as an organisation and our ability to work for the rights of Roma broadly and across Europe.’’

As part of its new programme, Civil Rights Defenders will also work to develop a legal protection mechanism and push for an all-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation to be implemented, raise awareness among the general public about Roma rights and promote participation and visibility of Roma communities in public life. Civil Rights Defenders will also urge government and non-governmental agencies to join forces and work together for the benefit of the Roma population.

The Decade of Roma Inclusion is an international initiative that brings together governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisations, as well as Roma civil society. It is an effort of European governments to eliminate stereotypes and discrimination against Roma. The Decade focuses on priorities such as education, employment, health, and housing; and commits governments to take into account other core issues of poverty, discrimination and gender mainstreaming.

Top picture: On 27 November a side-event to the conference, the photo exhibition “Under the Same Roof”, opens at the Java Gallery in Sarajevo (19.00). The exhibition depicts the Roma communities everyday life across the Western Balkans and is a part of the project “Strengthening Visibility of the most Discriminated Groups in the Western Balkans”, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

Categories: News.
Tags: Adi Sinani, Human rights, John Stuffer, Roma rights, and Under the same roof.
Regions: Western Balkans.