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August 16, 2022



Karel Holomek: Why might the director of the Czech Agency for Social Inclusion have been dismissed?

Brno, 24.4.2015 2:36
Karel Holomek  (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)
Karel Holomek (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)

Czech Human Rights Minister Dienstbier has completely unexpectedly dismissed the director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, Bc. Martin Šimáček. While he did not initially state the reasons for the dismissal on 17 April, he did so in a follow-up on 21 April.

Let's recall that the Agency, established by the Government, is supposed to impact the weakest link of social inclusion, particularly the inclusion of Romani people, and that is in the municipalities. The Government program was supposed to transfer know-how in this area to municipalities which very frequently had no respect for the program and often took completely opposite actions to those it recommended, actions dictated by reason of political practice in the agenda-setting of populism, in accordance with local citizens' wishes.

After being in existence for several years, the results of the Agency's work in the municipalities is quite varied. In some places it is absolutely excellent and successful, in others a total failure.

To sum up, in communities where the number of Romani people is fewer than 1 000, success has been achieved in improving the housing and social situations in such municipalities, in implementing policies in practice among Romani people, and in more successfully including them into local life. In larger communities with tens of thousands of Romani people the Agency has usually not succeeded.  

This is not necessarily the Agency's fault. The reason for it is clear:  Large numbers of one national group afflicted by social exclusion represent a demanding, long-term problem, and not just a social one.

In any event, Šimáček can be considered a successful government manager. That is why his dismissal is surprising.    

There is no need to speculate about the reasons for his dismissal. I would like to draw attention here to what might have caused it.

It may have been cause by essential criticism of the Agency by some Romani members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs, of which Šimáček was aware, but to which he did not, unfortunately, assign much importance. During his brief intervew on Czech Television on the evening of Friday, 17 April, he could not have been sincere when he said he had no idea what the reasons were that might have led the minister to dismiss him.  

That's just what everyone in this situation says. While he was director, he managed to convincingly - and almost always solely positively - assess the Agency through unbelievably detailed descriptions of its actions in various communities.  

Simply put, however, he did not manage to produce reliable investigations into the results of the Agency's work in the field with the target group. In many cases, that group remained in a very bleak situation even after the Agency's interventions.

Such findings, of course, could not be used to describe the Agency's efforts to succeed. The Agency had to always report results, even when there were none - and it did so.

Unacknowledged handicaps

This approach was the result of two handicaps that the director did not want to acknowledge and adjust for accordingly. Essentially he did not want to admit the element of any 

knowledge of Romani environments or mindsets into the work of the Agency.  

Since that was the way the Agency worked from the beginning, the strong Romani figures who are active in local communities parted company with it. The current staffers of the Agency have been unable to work convincingly in the field, the members of Romani communities have not been approached as Romani people, and to this day, most Roma not only are ignorant of the Agency's activity, they are ignorant of its existence.

There is a certain excuse to be made here, in the sense that while many municipalities agreed to collaborate with the Agency but were not serious about it. They agreed because it might bring them money, and because they might then be able to argue that they were in tune with the Government.  

This was simply a completely hypocrtical approach for them to take. As I recall, Mayor Řápková of Chomutov agreed to collaborate with the Agency during her tenure, even though it was completely certain that she was not serious.  

We always arrive at the same conclusion here. Without the actual, genuine participation of Romani people in implementing programs - not just on combating social exclusion, but on integrating Roma into society, which would be a much broader, more demanding program - there will be no success.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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