Memorandum on Human Rights Education Department - For the ERRC Board of Directors Meeting on May 25-26, 2002

"Human rights education is a vital component of any strategy to combat racism and related intolerance."

Mary Robinson, United Nations
High Commissioner on Human Rights

At the request of its Board of Directors, the ERRC staff presented a detailed outline of its human rights education strategy to the ERRC board of directors during its May 2002 meeting. The text of that memorandum follows:

What is the ERRC Human Rights Education Department (HRED)?

The ERRC Human Rights Education Department's (HRED) aims to empower individuals to acquire knowledge, understanding and experience in:

  • Human rights/Roma rights concepts and the underlying values and attitudes that lead to respect for human rights;
  • The instruments which record and protect human rights/Roma rights;
  • The skills, values and attitudes that uphold equal rights for all and encourage action in defence of these rights;
  • Discrimination and violence against Roma in Europe.

The ERRC HRED aims to raise awareness of and improve skills in the potential applications of the following mechanisms in Roma rights action: legal representation, advocacy, community based and targeted projects, advisory skills, educational initiatives, outreach programmes and communication.

The approach of the ERRC HRED comprises the following fileds of action:

  1. A scholarship programme for Romani students of law and public administration;
  2. An internship/externship programme providing Roma rights activists with training at the ERRC office in Budapest, or with a carefully selected, appropriate human rights organisation. Training modules last between 3 weeks and 6 months;
  3. Workshops on human rights issues directed at Roma and other targeted groups within the wider society, such as police officers, teachers, NGO activists, members of public administration, etc;
  4. Event-specific action, for example, organising, preparing and accompanying a Romani delegation to the World Conference against Racism, Durban 2001.

The target groups of the ERRC HRED include:

  • Romani activists working at the grass-roots, national and international level;
  • Romani university students of law and public administration;
  • Specific groups within wider society, such as police officers, teachers, NGO activists, members of public administration, etc;
  • ERRC staff members and consultants.

A Brief History of the ERRC HRED

The ERRC HRED is the evolution of the Community Education Programme, established in 1997. Early activities of the ERRC HRED included internships for Romani activists and supervising a pilot programme for community centres funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The aim of the project was to assist Roma in countries of Central and Eastern Europe in establishing community-based centres to facilitate capacity building and raise human rights awareness within Romani communities. The programme was discontinued in December 2001.

The Human Rights Education Department was created in February 2000. In 2000, the HRED added the granting of scholarships to Romani university students of law and public administration to its portfolio. In the summer of 2001, it held its first major workshop - a Roma Rights Summer University targeting English-speaking Romani activists from around Europe. In August-September 2001, the HRED engaged in its first major event-specific action: organising, bringing and guiding a large group of Roma rights activists to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

Impact Assessment

The ERRC has never conducted a systematic and formal survey of the impact of its HRED programmes. The following is based on our observations of successes and difficulties in the course of the programme:

Scholarships for Romani Students of Law or Public Administration

The ERRC HRED offers scholarships to eligible Romani students of law and/or public administration. Scholarships normally cover tuition at accredited schools, books, fees and miscellaneous expenses related to higher education. In exceptional cases, the ERRC HRED also covers accommodation. The criteria for selection include academic promise, financial need and a demonstrated intention to work in the field of human rights. Scholarships are awarded to successful applicants for one year. Recipients of scholarships are required to submit a report at the end of each semester to the ERRC HRED indicating their academic progress. Each candidate receives the scholarship payment in two instalments, the second instalment being dependent upon the first semester's progress.

Application procedure

Each candidate for ERRC legal scholarship must submit the following:

  1. Written request;
  2. A certificate from an accredited higher education institution:
  1. confirming that the applicant is enrolled for the current academic year;
  2. specifying the size of tuition and exam fees for the current academic year (if applicable), and;
  3. the applicant's grades from the previous academic year (if applicable).
  1. An itemised annual budget showing school expenses (tuition, books, fees, etc.) which cannot be covered by sources other than an ERRC scholarship;
  2. Name, title and contact number/address of at least one person who can recommend the applicant. This may include secondary school teachers, university professors, local community leaders, or others.

At some point during the scholarship period, recipients of ERRC legal scholarships are expected to perform:

  1. human rights outreach work in Romani communities, or;
  2. a summer human rights internship arranged by or in co-operation with the ERRC.

Since the inception of the scholarship programme in 1997, the ERRC has granted 365 scholarship grants. From February 2000, the programme has been administered by the HRED. Prior to that, it had been located in an ERRC Grants Department.

The total number of scholarships awarded has steadily increased, from a figure of 20 in 1997 to 148 in 2001. Successful applicants have been drawn from a number of European countries ranging from Western European countries such as England, Ireland, France and Spain, to Central and Eastern European countries such as Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. It is discernible from the data that the majority of applicants are from Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Macedonia. We can also observe that the bulk of applications received and scholarship grants awarded by the ERRC HRED come from the Central and Eastern Europe region. We believe that the reasons for the higher number of applicants from Central and Eastern Europe include: (i) our superior contact network close to home; (ii) the fact that our outreach efforts have been primarily targeted in the CEE region, and (iii) the fact that the Roma rights movement itself is primarily propelled by the energy of Roma from Central and Eastern Europe. We have been able to award more scholarships to Romani university students from Central and Eastern Europe because our money goes much further here. The cost of a micro-grant of 500-1000 USD/year allows the ERRC HRED to make the difference between participation in and exclusion from university for a Romani student in Central and Eastern Europe, whose family may be enmeshed in the complex of poverty. By contrast, grants to Romani students in Western Europe must be higher due to higher education costs. One of the few grants to a Western European Romani student awarded this year by the ERRC HRED was for 4000 USD. A crude calculation shows that the ERRC HRED can help 8 Romani students in Central and Eastern Europe for the cost of assisting 1 Romani student in Western Europe. This, however, does not mean that the ERRC HRED will cease granting scholarships to Roma from Western Europe, but that the present disparity in the number of awards granted between the two regions will likely remain for some time in the future.

It is too early to assess the real impact of the scholarship programme, since most of our scholarship recipients are still in university or are recent graduates. It is thought that the scholarship programme is, in many ways, an investment in Romani activists that will pay off years, and possibly decades, from now. Here however, it must be said that of all ERRC activities, few make as immediate sense to outside observers as our scholarship programme. We are widely praised for undertaking the complicated task of administering a Europe-wide programme of this nature within a community often lacking basic communication infrastructure such as phone, fax or e-mail. Further, although it is too early for a comprehensive impact survey, we have already noted some concrete successes:

  • One ERRC scholarship recipient - Samir Mile from France - now works at the Center for Gypsy Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris
  • One ERRC scholarship recipient – Anna Červeňakova from Prague, has since autumn 2001, been working for the Czech Ministry of Justice as an expert on international treaties;
  • One ERRC scholarship recipient – László Fórika from Hungary, now works as a staff attorney for the Hungarian Minority Ombudsman and teaches Roma rights issues at the University of Miskolc.

Internship/externship programme

Internships at the ERRC are offered on a competitive basis, for a period of time ranging from three weeks to six months, to Romani persons who meet certain educational, language and other criteria. The interns are hosted at the ERRC office in Budapest. The interns work with one of the ERRC Departments (Research and Publications, International Advocacy, Legal, or Human Rights Education). In co-operation with a named staff member mentor, the recently hired Human Rights Trainer supervises individual projects undertaken by the interns.

The primary aim and objective of the internship programme is to provide a rigorous course of activity, covering both the theoretical and practical realms of the Roma rights movement. A fundamental priority is to build bridges between grassroots organisations and prospective advocates and legal representatives in this field. Through the internship programme, the ERRC HRED has been increasing the capacity of indigenous Roma representatives, moving toward the ultimate goal of capable Romani self-representation. In co-operation with other ERRC staff, the ERRC HRED designs tasks for Romani interns, aimed at achieving our stated objective of developing and improving skills in legal representation, advocacy, community-based and targeted projects, advisory skills, educational initiatives, outreach programmes and communication and media analysis.

Between 2000-2002, the ERRC HRED awarded 70 internship/externships. Until February 2002, the strategy of the programme was to assign individual interns to the relevant department of the ERRC, in accordance with the interests and expectations of the candidate. This practice, however, did not address the needs and expectations of the interns. Usually internship supervisors – ERRC staff members – were too busy with their own work and they were not able to devote any significant attention to the needs of the intern. Therefore, the intern was frequently left in a state of isolation and often felt guilty in making requests for time and attention of their supervisor. For this reason, beginning in early 2002, a full-time Human Rights Trainer – Mr Larry Olomoofe – whose primary function is the supervision of interns, has been working at the ERRC within the framework of the HRED.

Early changes introduced by the ERRC HRED since the engagement of the Human Rights Trainer include:

  • Developing and implementing a core human rights education curriculum for interns. The curriculum comprises three levels (introductory, intermediate and advanced);
  • Providing lectures on aspects of Roma rights;
  • Designing assignments to facilitate the development of relationships with local grassroots organisations in the intern's country of origin, in order to build a bridge between the intern, the ERRC and said community-based organisations;
  • Making full use of the range of opportunities provided by other Budapest-based organisations to provide a full and rich programme for the intern.

Though many of the past problems with the internship programme have been remedied in the early months of tenure of the Human Rights Trainer, a range of tasks still lie ahead if the ERRC HRED internship programmes to realise its full potential as a flagship training programme for Romani activists.

Externships at selected human rights organisations are offered by the ERRC HRED to allow Romani human rights activists the opportunity to undertake an individual project at one of a small number of carefully selected, highly professional, human rights organisations. Interns "shadow" professional human rights activists, and/or implement projects designed in co-operation with the ERRC HRED. In many cases, the intern is hosted by an appropriate human rights organisation that works in a language that the intern understands and is supervised by a member of the host organisation. The externship component of this programme attempts primarily to meet the needs of those Romani activists who do not speak English.

One of the main objectives of this programme is strengthening current relationships with local, national and international organisations involved in human rights advocacy and legal representation. Currently, the ERRC has a number of inter-organisational relationships allowing various interns enrolled in the externship programme to visit these partner organisations for a period of external work experience. The aim of this is to provide the extern insight into the workings and activities of other local, national and international organisations, effectively broadening their knowledge, capacity and expertise in Roma rights protection and advocacy.

The ERRC HRED envisaged broadening its network to include other institutions (inter-governmental and non-governmental) which have direct dealings with Romani communities in the region. The ERRC HRED has initiated activities to involve international organisations such as the Council of Europe, United Nations and the OSCE in the externship programme.

The impact of the internship/externship is not always immediately demonstrable. Some ERRC HRED interns/externs have not continued with Roma rights action, although this is not the case for many. Many intern/externs have continued their engagement in Roma rights action. The ERRC HRED believes it shows a very high rate of post-internship success, given the extreme conditions from which many interns come. A non-exhaustive list of successes follows:

  • A former ERRC intern – Martin Demirovski from Macedonia – now works for the OSCE Mission Bosnia Herzegovina;
  • A former ERRC intern – Mirjam Karoly from Austria- is employed full-time for Romano Centro in Vienna;
  • A former ERRC intern – Miroslav Lacko from Slovakia – has been a frequent and long-term consultant to the European Union delegation in Slovakia;
  • A former ERRC intern – Edmund Muller from Slovakia – now heads a Roma rights organisation in Košice, Slovakia;
  • A former ERRC intern – Petar Antić from Belgrade – now heads a Roma rights organisation in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

In addition, the ERRC has been able to integrate a number of former interns in its own work:

  • ERRC staff attorney Ivan Ivanov is a former ERRC intern;
  • ERRC interns Nicolae RadiĹŁa, Djordje Jovanović, and Marija Demić have all gone on to become ERRC local monitors in their home countries.

Workshops

The ERRC HRED is a human rights educational resource centre for various targeted groups such as Romani communities, NGO activists, journalists, etc. The ERRC HRED is currently exploring opportunities to bring workshops for Roma rights activists to the national level.

Roma Rights Summer University

The main goal of this project is to assist in the formation of a new generation of Romani leaders, who can skilfully use the international and domestic human rights mechanisms to advance the rights of the Roma.

The first Summer University was held in Budapest in July 2001. Romani students of law and social sciences across the Central and Eastern European region were invited to participate. During the programme they became familiar with the basic concepts of human rights and the major obstacles in the area of Roma rights. Distinguished speakers such as Eva Orsos, Co-Chair of the ERRC Board of Directors, Theodore Shaw, Director of the NAACP, Michael Simons, Director of the American Friend Service Committee, participated in the programme.

The HRED collected the following feedback from participants:

  • "It is great that the ERRC gave us the opportunity to learn more about international human rights and to organise ourselves."
  • "I liked the spirit of the Summer University and that all participants are so committed for the Roma cause"
  • "I learned lots of new and very important things."

In light of suggestions by the participants, the ERRC HRED intends to hold the Summer University annually. This is consistent with the belief that human rights education is crucial in the capacity-development of future Romani representatives.

Training for Trainers

Based on the highly successful model of the ERRC Roma Rights Summer University, the ERRC HRED has begun developing a programme to train Romani trainers in human rights education, focusing on the right to education. The Training for Trainers programme aims to bring the workshop model of the Roma Rights Summer University to countries aside from Hungary, targeting Romani activists who do not necessarily speak English.

Possible topics of Training for Trainers workshops currently under consideration include:

Linking the activities of other ERRC departments to training workshops for Romani activists; for example, organising community training workshops in communities where the ERRC is involved in desegregation litigation;

Producing an exportable model of human rights training for Romani activists; for example, we are currently in discussion with the Swedish Ombudsman's office to possibly bring our Summer University model to Sweden, to provide training in human rights and discrimination issues for Scandinavian Romani activists.

Event-specific action

Romani delegation at the World Conference against Racism: The 2001 World Conference against Racism (WCAR) provided an ideal opportunity for Roma rights advocacy and training. WCAR was the most high-profile human rights event in 2001 on the issue of race and racism and the ERRC appropriately focused significant advocacy efforts on WCAR. The ERRC prepared for and co-ordinated the participation of Romani activists. The ERRC HRED sent 52 activists to WCAR.

The ERRC participated in the WCAR preparatory process and participated in several planning meetings held in Geneva at the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Several days in advance of the commencement of the WCAR NGO Forum, held August 28, 2001 to September 1, 2001, the selected Romani activists came to the offices of the ERRC in Budapest. Working in co-operation with ERRC staff, their participation at WCAR, and particularly, the WCAR NGO Forum, was mapped out. Using ERRC materials, including the photograph archive, the Romani activists developed their individual statements.

An NGO Forum took place from August 28, 2001 to September 1, 2001, prior to the conference itself. ERRC staff and Romani activists were present at both events to address the Roma issue and to raise awareness of racism in Europe. WCAR presented Romani activists with a unique opportunity to raise global awareness of racism against Roma, and it allowed individual Romani activists to attend and participate in an international conference and become familiar with the workings of the international arena.

Regardless of the chaos and the many obstacles faced during WCAR, the Roma delegation succeeded in raising awareness of the ubiquity of the racial discrimination against Roma. ERRC staff members were informed by various high-profile governmental and non-governmental persons that, the Roma delegation was one of the most successful groups at WCAR.

Community Human Rights Education Grant Programme

From 1997 to December 2001, the ERRC HRED was involved in a project involving working with Romani community centres to provide community-based human rights education. Over time, a number of approaches were utilised in order to make the most effective use of funding provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in delivering a quality human rights education curriculum. However, the impact of these approaches was limited, and, at the end of 2001, the programme was phased out after extensive discussion with both the donor and the ERRC Board and staff.

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