Political leaders have primary role in countering discrimination and prejudice against Roma and Sinti, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and ODIHR Director say on International Roma Day
BERLIN/WARSAW, 8 April 2016 – Political leaders must play a primary role in in countering discrimination and prejudice against Roma and Sinti and improving their situation, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister, and Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said today, on the occasion of International Roma Day.
“Political leaders at all levels must be at the forefront of efforts to end the systematic discrimination and racism that have long afflicted Roma and Sinti communities and individuals in many countries in the OSCE region,” OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Steinmeier said. “They have to lead both by word, in delivering positive messages and not resorting to negative stereotypes and scapegoating, and by example, in ensuring the implementation of policies at all levels of government to promote the integration and full political, economic and social participation of Roma and Sinti in their societies.”
In particular, they condemned the use by some politicians of racist language and messages aimed either at promoting hatred towards Roma and Sinti or reinforcing negative stereotypes.
“Alarmingly, we still see instances where politicians resort to the politics of fear and hatred for their own perceived gain, thus stoking unfair and dangerous prejudice against Roma and Sinti. This contributes to an atmosphere in which members of Europe’s largest minority are in danger of being targeted with hate crimes, including violent assaults, and even murder,” Director Link said. “Leaders must not only refrain from such statements, but take a step further – they must publicly condemn racist speech and acts against Roma and Sinti, and counter racism and discrimination in a systematic way.”
The subject of racist, anti-Roma rhetoric used by politicians was addressed at a side event organized by ODIHR and the Central Council for German Sinti and Roma, during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, on 30 September 2015, at which participants highlighted the important role of state institutions in overcoming racism.
The Organization’s work in this area is guided by the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area, adopted in 2003, which includes measures to combat racism and discrimination, to promote greater public and economic participation, and to ensure equal access and opportunities in the areas of education, employment, housing and health services.
“The blueprint for addressing racism and discrimination against Roma and Sinti and for improving their situation already exists, in the form of the Action Plan,” said Mirjam Karoly, Chief of ODIHR’s Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues. “Greater political will and leadership are vital to making this a reality.”