OSCE Ministerial Council Adopts Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE Area

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) welcomes the adoption by the Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the 2nd of December, in Maastricht, of an Action Plan on improving the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area. Speaking on the occasion of the adoption of the Action Plan, ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said: "The adoption this week of one comprehensive document on Roma rights issues significantly improves the chances that the OSCE states will implement human rights-based policies on Roma".

The elaboration and implementation of national policies addressing the situation of Roma -- designed with the active participation of Roma and Sinti -- is among core elements of the Action Plan. The Action Plan includes detailed recommendations to states of the OSCE region aimed at ensuring that Roma and Sinti are able to play a full and equal part in society, as well as at eradicating discrimination against them.

In the field of education, the Action Plan commits OSCE participating states to addressing the current emergency of racially segregated education by developing and implementing comprehensive desegregation programs and other policies aimed at integrating Roma and Sinti children into mainstream education. It also recommends that legislation include provisions explicitly banning racial segregation and discrimination in education.

As regards housing, the Action Plan suggests that OSCE states should institutionalise mechanisms and procedures to clarify property rights, resolve questions of ownership, and regularise the legal status of Roma and Sinti living in circumstances of unsettled legality. It also calls on states to combat racial segregation in the field of housing.

The Action Plan further recommends that states should ensure that Roma and Sinti have access to health care services on a non-discriminatory basis.

The Action Plan affirms the pressing need to adopt and implement effective anti-discrimination legislation to combat direct and indirect racial and ethnic discrimination in all fields. The creation of specialised bodies to ensure the implementation of such legislation, as well as monitoring and reporting mechanisms on the progress achieved in implementing comprehensive anti-discrimination law, is also recommended.

The Action Plan further includes detailed sections addressing issues related to police, media, employment, public and political participation, and the situation of Roma in crisis and post-crisis situations. It moreover exhorts states to ensure that Roma and Sinti have all necessary documents, including birth certificates, identity documents and health insurance certificates. The situation of Roma and Sinti women is stressed as an area in need of particular action.

The ERRC welcomes the collaborative process of drafting the Action Plan, involving Roma and Sinti experts extensively in the elaboration of drafts. The ERRC provided suggestions and comments on various drafts circulated.

The ERRC believes the Action Plan can play an important role in the improvement of the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE states, and their full empowerment. It is now up to OSCE participating states to ensure effective and full implementation of the Action Plan. The full text of the Action Plan is available on: http://www.osce.org/odihr/cprsi/.

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