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Survey on Czech Romani Inclusion Strategy: Does affirmative action make sense?

Prague, 24.2.2015 19:42, (ROMEA)
From left to right:  Michal Miko, Alica Heráková, David Ištok (PHOTO: collage by Romea.cz)
From left to right: Michal Miko, Alica Heráková, David Ištok (PHOTO: collage by Romea.cz)

On Monday, 23 February, the Czech Government approved two key documents, the Romani Integration Strategy to 2020 and a report on the fulfillment of the Strategy to Combat Social Exclusion. News server Romea.cz has contacted several figures with a survey of questions about these documents.

David Ištok, town councilor, Chomutov:  I am not in favor of privileging one group over another

Q:  In your experience, can big political strategies of this type work?

A:  In my experience, based on what I know from practice, it should work. However, it will only work if the projects concerned aren't just created "for projects" - if they get to the point and solve the problems themselves, by which I mean housing policy, unemployment, and getting rid of labels in the areas of media reporting, the schools, etc.

Q:  Do you believe such strategies should include "positive discrimination"?

A:  "Positive discrimination"? I am not in favor of privileging one group over another - rather, I believe we should all do this together. We Roma should show the majority society good examples from real life. Various clubs and nonprofit organizations can contribute to various events in the towns.

Q:  Do you believe the Romani Integration Strategy sufficiently includes what Romani people themselves want? (Do those who wrote the Strategy know what that is?)

A:  I don't believe so, too few Romani people know about it, or if they did, they were mostly only people who already take an interest in such things. Awareness among Romani people should improve, the nonprofit sector, for example, needs to be connected with the authorities, they should communicate more with one another. As a professor of the Romani language once told me, Romani people came from India, where there was a caste system. I think that still exists in our country to this day - but if we ourselves don't unite and work as a community, this problem will never be solved.

Q:  What, in your view, is missing the most from these integration strategies?

A:  There should be no space given to those who just turn a profit as a result of these efforts while they laugh in people's faces. As I said before, the focus should be on solving the problems themselves, whether that be the creation of artificial ghettos, housing policy, improving relationships in the schools - addressing the "practical schools", or problems with drugs. We have to show people that even if someone is Romani, it doesn't mean he will rob you. The media should not look only for negative stuff about us, but should also report on the good things.    

Alica Heráková, Museum of Romani Culture:  Strategies are crucial but must be implemented in practice

Q:  In your experience, can big political strategies of this type work?

A:  Yes, strategies are crucial. However, what is even more important is political will and an understanding of the need to implement them in practice. In the Czech environment, these kinds of documents become shipwrecks. Romani social exclusion is constantly belitted both inside the various ministries and at the level of politics. Romani people and those who are doing their best to see through any change in the way the system is set up are viewed as whiners, and frequently there is a total lack of any elementary knowledge of this issue, as well as a lack of political will to change anything at all. We are used to connecting such documents with a feeling that it's all in vain, and that's where it comes from.

Q:  Do you believe such strategies should include "positive discrimination"?

A:  For me personally that is a complicated question. If they do include such measures, only time will tell whether it's positive or not. I would compare this, generally, to quotas for women in the management of state-owned firms, which was recently discussed here. Whether specific individuals will actually manage to take advantage of such opportunities and how it will turn out is, in my opinion, still an open-ended story here.

Q:  Do you believe the Romani Integration Strategy sufficiently includes what Romani people themselves want? (Do those who wrote the Strategy know what that is?)

A:  Romani people who need aid frequently expect very clear, concrete things, such as decently paid work and equal treatment. The strategy is not a panacea in that regard, that must be acknowledged. However, I do view it positively, at least to the extent with which I am familiar with it.  

Q:  There are two Government Strategies, one on Romani integration and one on combating social exclusion - is that problematic, in your view?

A:  To bring a strategic document to life is an extremely demanding process, systemically speaking, so to coordinate the introduction of two such documents is, in my opinion, practically impossible in our conditions. I view this as rather problematic.

Q:  What, in your view, is missing the most from these integration strategies?

A:  As with most state administration projects that take a long time to create, they respond slowly to changes and to the impossibility of guaranteeing that they will actually be enforced in practice.

Michal Miko, Slovo 21 NGO:  Integration can't happen without affirmative action

Q:  In your experience, can big political strategies of this type work?

A:  The Romani Integration Strategy 2014-202 is an important document. We hope. The Strategy per se can only work if the political will to follow it exists across the entire political spectrum of the Czech Republic. For it to function, by which I mean from the financial point of view, resources from the ESIF ČR [European Structural and Investment Funds of the Czech Republic] can be used, but only if Romani representatives take up this opportunity and strive to represent Romani interests as part of the monitoring committees of the ESIF ČR.  

Q:  Do you believe such strategies should include "positive discrimination"?  

A:  I am convinced that without "positive discrimination" the intended integration cannot fully occur. Mainly in all the excluded localities (but not only there), there is a visible need to introduce affirmative action, to give Romani adults work and young Roma a quality education. That way Roma in the Czech Republic can become active.

Q:  Do you believe the Romani Integration Strategy sufficiently includes what Romani people themselves want? (Do those who wrote the Strategy know what that is?)

A:  The Strategy was designed together with Romani people and I believe it includes everything that is important. However, as I mentioned in my answer to your first question, everything depends on political will.

Q:  There are two Government Strategies, one on Romani integration and one on combating social exclusion - is that problematic, in your view?

A:  In my opinion it is absurd to have two strategic documents, both of which must be implemented through financing and staffing. I believe this has a generally bad influence on the way the mayors of towns and villages manage things, how they basically proceed on integration. It was pointless to waste all the resources spent on these two separate strategies. It basically shows the Government's attitude toward this topic.  

Q:  What, in your view, is missing the most from these integration strategies?

A:  We all know that today's document, which is being discussed by Parliament, is not the first of its kind. Such documents always, after being approved by the Government, come up against the fact that there is a lack of financial resources and of political will for their implementation.

bau, mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Anketa, opinions, Roma, Sociální vyloučení, Soužití, Strategie



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