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Czech Republic: Activists want incoming governing coalition to enact Human Rights Ministry

Prague, 27.11.2013 0:05, (ROMEA)
This mock-up for the non-existent Czech ministry reads
This mock-up for the non-existent Czech ministry reads "Ministry of Human Rights, Minorities, and Equal Opportunity" (Collage: Romea.cz)

A total of 40 nonprofit organizations and several eminent figures in the Czech Republic have issued an open letter calling on the heads of the ANO, Christian Democratic and Social Democratic parties to consider establishing a Ministry for Human Rights, Minorities and Equal Opportunities should they form a government. Proponents of the move believe it would mean such issues would receive greater weight and would not only help solve country's problems with ghettos, but would even benefit the economy as a whole.

The ROMEA association is a signatory to the letter. "Many arguments speak in favor of establishing the office of Human Rights Minister, including the fact that this agenda can only be efficiently coordinated and followed up by a full-fledged cabinet member," the authors of the letter insist.   

The open letter was signed by an umbrella consortium of 14 associations and organizations working with immigrants. The Czech Women's Lobby, which has 25 member groups, other organizations representing sexual minorities, and associations assisting Romani people such as ROMEA and Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) also signed on. 

Previous Human Rights Ministers Džamila Stehlíková and Michael Kocáb, former Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl, and the former head of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Anna Šabatová, have also signed. The open letter states that the government has ignored the nonprofit sector in recent years.

The Czech Government Council for Equality Between Women and Men was moved from the Office of the Government to the Czech Labor Ministry and the Human Rights Section of the Government has also been weakened. The situation of some Romani people in the Czech Republic has also deteriorated during that same time.

Even more impoverished ghettos have sprung up around the country. Right-wing extremists have begun holding anti-Romani marches nationwide with the support of local residents.   

The open letter argues that because politicians have refused to address the situation, there has been further decline, radicalization, and a rise in security risks. The activists believe a Ministry for Human Rights, Minorities and Equal Opportunities would also pay off for the Czech Republic even in a time of budget cuts.  

If a minister were to promote measures directly at cabinet level, there could be more success in solving the problems of expanding ghettos and in working to prevent others from forming. That would reduce welfare budgets and other expenditures by the health and labor ministries, as well as reduce tensions in society. 

"The deployment of police riot units to suppress demonstrations during one month in this past year alone cost the country around CZK 150 million," the authors of the open letter point out. The activists also believe that promoting equal opportunities for both sexes would contribute to higher employment rates among women, which would ultimately result in more money for the state. 

The eminent figures and nonprofits also argue that most of the cost of running a new ministry could be financed from EU funds. The nonprofit sector is offering to aid politicians in that effort by providing experts and much-needed social services.  

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Lidská práva, Zmocněnec, Civil society, Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, Czech Christian Democrats, Czech Republic, EU, Extremism, Immigration, integration, MPSV, news, open letter, Roma, ČSSD, ANO



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