ERRC/IHF Joint Statement OSCE Roma Participation
8 October 2003
Joint Intervention by the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) and the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) at the 2003 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting October 8, 2003
Abuse of the fundamental rights of Roma in the states of the OSCE region remains a cause for deep concern. Reports of, inter alia, violent abuse, frequently animated by racial prejudice or animosity; racial segregation and other abuses in the fields of education, housing and health care; racial discrimination in nearly all sectoral fields; and in a number of instances the collective expulsion of Roma from OSCE countries continue, in most cases in the absence of adequate measures by states to remedy them. Throughout the OSCE region, authorities have failed to take adequate measures to improve the situation of Roma. These issues are not new to the OSCE and the need for thorough-going and pro-active measures by governments to address the situation of Roma has repeatedly been emphasized in this forum. For example, the OSCE Charter for European Security, adopted at the 1999 Istanbul Summit, provides that OSCE states "recognise the particular difficulties faced by Roma and Sinti and the need to undertake effective measures in order to achieve full equality of opportunity, consistent with OSCE commitments, for persons belonging to Roma and Sinti." OSCE states committed to "reinforce [their] efforts to ensure that Roma and Sinti are able to play a full and equal part in our societies [...]"
There is an increasing conviction among governments and civil society in the OSCE member states that one of the conditions for remedying the present exclusion of Roma is Roma participation: the inclusion of Roma in the policy process and, indeed, in government. Roma participation has been repeatedly addressed as a key issue at OSCE fora. As long ago as 1990, at the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the former CSCE, the participating states committed to "respect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities to effective participation in public affairs [...]" A World Bank/Open Society Institute conference "Roma in Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future," held in Budapest, Hungary, 30 June - 1 July 2003, heralded the inauguration of a "Decade of Roma Inclusion."
In light of the foregoing, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) presented a joint statement at today's "Tolerance and Non-Discrimination" session at the 2003 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, being held this year in Warsaw, Poland. In the statement, the ERRC and IHF call on OSCE states to take immediate and effective measures to ensure that Roma enjoy full participation in decision-making processes, and in the design, implementation and evaluation of policy measures addressing issues of relevance to Roma, in particular by ensuring adequate Romani inclusion in all levels of public administration. In addition, the ERRC and IHF note that if states are to uphold their international law and OSCE commitments, officials must ensure that Roma are protected from abuses of their fundamental rights, and provided with adequate remedy in the event that such rights are violated. The full text of the ERRC/IHF joint statement is available on the Internet at: ERRC: International Advocacy
Further information is available from:
Virgil-Cristi Mihalache (ERRC): ++ 36 20 22 60 766
Nicole Watson (IHF): ++ 43 676 30 52 642