Coordinators for Roma issues in Dire Straits

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04.03.2015. Radio Ozon - Saradnik Pokrajinskog ombudsmana posetio Sremsku MitrovicuDespite obligations of the Republic of Serbia based on the ratified international human and minority rights documents, as well as on the Roma Decade, the position of Coordinators for Roma Issues (CRIs) with the local self-governments in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is still difficult, verging on grueling.

CRIs are often the only link between the local Roma community and the authorities, institutions and state services. Meetings with the local CRIs in the AP of Vojvodina have proved that a majority of them has been working at this post in municipalities part-time for several years back, which is contrary to regulations. A significant proportion of them are still not employed full-time with the local self-governments, despite their several years’ part-time or volunteering engagement at this post.

Roma community members address CRIs mostly concerning ID and personal documentation provision, as well as exercise of their rights in the field of welfare and healthcare, education, employment and housing. This fact itself says enough about the level of information, knowledge, experience, professional training and responsibility this post imposes. Despite this circumstance, even CRIs employed full-time are often not in a position to acquire new or develop their existing professional skills relevant for their work to a sufficient extent or supported by competent professionals and experts.

Most local self-governments have still not adopted strategic documents, action plans and other legal acts in fields relevant for advancement of the position of the Roma. Detailed Regulation Plans, the most significant urbanism documents in the field of housing advancement and a base for long-term planning at the local self-government level, are just one example. Even if they have been adopted, they most often do not include the informal settlements or parts of formal settlements with a significant proportion of Roma dwellers. In several local self-governments it has been noted that the local authorities missed some opportunities for participation in bigger and longer-term projects, particularly in the field of infrastructure and housing, due to poor organization and planning, indicative also of a lack of sensitivity for the position of the Roma community.

Meetings with the CRIs with the local self-governments in AP of Vojvodina are a part of a field research study project of the Provincial Protector of Citizens – Ombudsman in the field of national minority rights protection. Once the project has been finished, its findings and results will be published in a report comprising recommendations to the authorities in charge concerning advancement of the position of the CRIs with the local self-governments. Activities of this project are complementary to those of the VET4 Mediation with Roma implemented in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Romania and Serbia with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission.

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