The issues concerning Roma are numerous, the single largest minority in Europe has been marginalized for centuries. Many Roma now suffer from lack of economical perspective, low employment and educational levels, health care problems and outright discrimination and hatred.

While Roma have a claim to equal citizenship  they face many obstacles: they are often uneducated, lack insight in political and decision making processes, have low internet and media skills and financial means.

The root cause of these issues is the exclusion of Roma from wider society. The drive behind this exclusion and unequal citizenship is twofold: public stigmatization and inadequate public policies. This issue needs to be dealt with on a grassroots level where a positive identity is enhanced and discrimination is challenged. It also needs to be dealt with on a political level, where supportive and fair policies are established and exclusive politics are abandoned.

The Council of Europe (CoE), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) regularly report about obstacles for Roma minorities in Central and Eastern Europe in realising their human rights. In the beginning of 2009, the FRA launched a worrying report on Roma and racism and concluded that "Of all the groups surveyed by the FRA, the Roma emerge as the most vulnerable to discrimination and racist crime. The figures show that discrimination and racist crime are an everyday experience for Roma. Politicians and other public figures need to speak out and lead by example on human rights protection. Awareness-raising to prevent discrimination is necessary, as well as rigorous sanctions against those who discriminate against the Roma. The Roma also stand out from the groups surveyed in relation to having the highest unemployment rates and lowest education levels. The social exclusion of the Roma must be urgently addressed".

To combat the exclusion, ERGO Network strengthens the self-organisation of Roma in civil society organisations that act as watchdogs. If Roma are united in strong and capacitated representative structures, Roma civil society will better develop its function of watchdog, and as such Roma can make their voice heard and develop a strong negotiation position. ERGO Network and its partners assume that governments will have to respond to a well organised Roma minority, that knows how to defend its cause (more about our approach).



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