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June 24, 2021

 

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Czech Govt approves crucial Strategy on including Romani people, Commissioner for Romani Affairs to be created

11.5.2021 7:18
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (PHOTO:  Google Maps)
Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (PHOTO: Google Maps)

Yesterday during a cabinet seesion the Czech Government approved its Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma (Romani Integration Strategy) for the 2021-2030 period. This crucial document was drafted in close collaboration with the Office of the Government and representatives of nonprofit organizations led by the organization RomanoNet, by the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, and by other eminent representatives of the Romani community.

The strategy has six chapters addressing problems in the areas of emancipation; support for equality, inclusion and participation; antigypsyism; education; housing; employment; and health. It also includes a section on tasks specifying clear assigments for each ministry, and the Government has committed to fulfilling several breakthrough measures.

The position of Government Commissioner on Romani Affairs is meant to be established as soon as possible, for example. The Government has also committed to follow and monitor how each measure specifically impacts Romani people.

"The most important thing is the participation of Romani people, without whom change in the areas addressed by Strategy 2021+ will not be possible," said Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková. In her opinion, it is exactly the low participation by Romani people in administering public affairs that is one of the main reasons the measures and financial support adopted to date for this area have not been effective.  

"Although awareness is increasing in society about the necessity of eliminating the persistent problems of antigypsyism and discrimination, the insufficient participation of Romani people in the relevant projects and decision-making processes has prevented the successful achievement of a correction in that direction. Right now, if the Strategy 2021+ will be upheld, there is a chance of changing things for the better in the near term," she said.  

The importance of participation was also mentioned by Jan Husák, a volunteer civil society member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. "This is a breakthrough document that Romani people themselves contributed to, from nonprofit organizations to eminent figures who have long been involved with this issue," he said. 

"Strategy 2021+ is showing us the way forward and I am very glad that we managed to negotiate it with the ministries in the form that we wanted. My thanks go to all involved," said Vice-Chair of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs Zdeněk Guži.

The strategy builds on a previous such document approved by the Government on 23 February 2015. Just as was the case during the last programming period (2014-2020) during which the strategy was a preliminary thematic condition for the country to draw from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), so too for the new programming period 2021-2027 the strategy counts on the basic thematic condition for the ESIF aiming at the inclusion of Romani people. 

In addition to the previous strategy, the new one builds on key documents from the European Union and other international organizations, e.g., the Report on the Assessment of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies to 2020, or recommendations by the Council of Europe on the fulfillment of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages.

How the Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma 2021-30 was developed

The Department of the Office of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs and the Secretariat of the Czech Government Council for National Minority Affairs of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic prepared the first draft of the strategy.
It was opened for public consultation at the close of April 2020.

Those consultations were meant to take place through an online questionnaire. The approach was criticized by some members of the volunteer civil society section of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs as well as by nonprofit organizations.

According to the critics, Romani people had been insufficiently involved in drafting the strategy's text and it had been submitted to them as a fait accompli. Nonprofit organizations led by RomanoNet, which brings together several leading pro-Romani and Romani NGOs, called for the strategy to be reworked and were interested in contributing to it. 

The first joint session of working groups on the strategy happened on 24 June 2020 at the Impact Hub in Prague, where the strategy was revised and new aims and measures were proposed. Until the close of November 2020, through video conferences, the specific content of the logframes and concrete tasks for each ministry was formulated.  

The final form of the text of the strategy was also drafted. The entirel material was submitted to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for his signature on 10 December 2020, and on 17 December the material was sent to the inter-ministerial commenting procedure. 

On 19 April 2021 the strategy was approved by the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs and on 10 May the Czech Government adopted it.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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