Effective participation of Roma and Sinti fundamental for successful inclusion, conclude participants in ODIHR workshop in Brussels
Intensifying dialogue and networking between Roma and Sinti civil society, policymakers and political parties is fundamental to successful policies for ensuring the effective participation of Roma and Sinti in their communities, said participants at a workshop hosted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on 27 and 28 March 2017 in Brussels.
The event was supported by the U.S. Helsinki Commission and held within the framework of the European Union Roma week.
Drawing from practical experience from Europe and the United States, participants explored strategies to enhance effective participation of diverse communities in political processes as a way to increase representation of community interests and reverse anti-Roma rhetoric and racism in public and political discourse.
“Societies benefit from broad and diverse participation representing the voices of all communities in the public and political spheres”, said Killion Munyama, member of the Polish Parliament and of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “In order to shape meaningful and effective policy initiatives, members of the Roma and Sinti community, including women and youth, government actors and representatives of institutions have to sit at the same decision-making table.”
Participants also stressed the need for more inclusive political platforms and membership in mainstream political parties as regards Roma and Sinti, to counter anti-Roma bias and hostility.
“Standing for elected office and using one’s right to vote is a powerful tool for Roma communities in Europe to counter anti-Roma rhetoric, hate crimes and racism. It is also a strong signal to political leaders that Roma are ready to speak out and lead movements, both within and outside their own communities,” said Mee Moua, former President of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), who also served as a Minnesota State Senator in the United States.
The need to maintain Roma and Sinti issues on the European and international agenda was also underlined by participants.
The workshop gathered some 35 participants, including elected officials, Roma and Sinti and civil society representatives engaged in the area of public and political participation, as well as relevant stakeholders from European institutions.