Halfway through the Roma Decade: going anywhere?

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

An opinion piece on the debate site Has the Decade of Roma Inclusion made a difference for Roma in the communities? is highly critical of the absence of the tangible progress of the Roma Decade to date.

To be fair, many Roma and non-Roma civil society organizations work hard on various issues of concern to Roma, and often achieve remarkable results. But as some rightly point out, these organizations worked before the Decade, definitely would have worked without the Decade, and most likely would continue working long after the Decade. Others, however, and specifically some of the big international names that were so enthusiastic prior to the Decade launch, do not seem quite as active as many would have expected. Of course, speeches are still being periodically made, and Roma-related and Decade-related conferences and events are being attended faithfully, but that spark seems to be gone. What is left is more like a lip-service than a heart-felt effort.

EU is one such example. It seems, after the then Commission´s composition had changed, the Roma Decade lost both its protagonists and its drive. The EU Roma Strategy is still missing, despite persistent calls from a wide range of Roma organizations to adopt one. There are other big players, too, that have not been heard much from since the Decade.

And it would be entirely inappropriate to try and bring economic crisis as an excuse for diminished activism. First, because it would just stress that Roma issues are so unimportant to them that anything else, by default, acquires higher priority. Second, because, if anything, at times of economic crises — and international organizations can bet their annual budgets on it — Roma are guaranteed to be affected more and more severely than anyone, and therefore there are more, not less, reasons to ensure the Decade´s proper implementation.

It is no wonder that without continued international support and pressure only limited progress has been reported with the implementation of the Decade´s objectives in the participating countries, half-way through the Decade, as evidenced by the Decade Watch monitoring. And it is no wonder that Roma are becoming somewhat disappointed with the Decade´s achievements.

Decade partners need to step up their involvement, if the Decade to lead somewhere. Surely, grass-roots NGOs must do their bit — nothing without the Roma. But as mentioned before, they have been doing their job anyway and did not need the Decade for that. But if other partners committed themselves to the Decade, they too should stick to the agreement and do their bit in good faith. Otherwise, why did they even bother getting involved?