The Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 is coming to the end of its originally defined term. It initiated crucially important processes for Roma inclusion in Europe, and provided the impetus for an EU-led effort covering similar subject matter, the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 (EU Framework).
After eight years, however, it is clear that Roma integration has not been completed despite the fact that it has gained a higher level of attention by a number of key policy makers. The Decade goal to eliminate discrimination against Roma and close the unacceptable gap between Roma and the rest of society is still relevant, as the gap remains, and in some cases appears to be growing. Approaching the end of the Decade term it is necessary to decide on its continuation and form after 2015.
Taking this into account, the Croatian Decade Presidency, endorsed by the International Steering Committee at its 23rd meeting held on 24-25 September 2012 in Zagreb, Croatia, commenced a participatory consultation process on the future of the Decade after 2015.
To open the debate on the Decade future, the 23rdInternational Steering Committee (ISC) featured an informal debateserving as an initial inspiration for the Decade partners to consider the issue and discuss possible ideas. The debate indicated that the initial response of the majority of the meeting participants was a willingness to continue the Decade after 2015. The detailed discussion included appreciation of the Decade’s achievements, but also considerations about the challenges that remain unaddressed, particularly the failure to produce tangible change for the majority of Roma and concerns about duplication with the EU Framework.
Achievements of the Decade listed in the options paper included that the Decade:
- motivated national and European Union commitment;
- set relevant and valid mission of tackling discrimination and poverty of Roma as a unique initiative focusing on Roma issues;
- raised the overall awareness of Roma exclusion;
- pioneered participation of Roma in policy discussions affecting them;
- spurred the creation of specialized facilities and the mobilization of new resources for Roma inclusion;
- initiated, documented and disseminated good practices in the priority areas;
- developed credibility as a flexible and neutral forum for substantive dialogue on Roma inclusion.
On the opposite side, the shortcomings of the Decade identified in the policy options paper included:
- overly ambitious mission and vaguely defined priorities;
- inadequate resourcing;
- lack of an enforcement mechanism;
- failure to address structural discrimination;
- sporadic and inadequate monitoring, evaluation and reporting;
- certain shortcomings in its structure; and
- the existence of parallel initiatives (chiefly the EU Framework)
The 24th International Steering Committee meeting confirmed the general direction for the Decade future reflected from the beginning of the discussions and consultations. Decade partners, including participating governments, international organizations and Roma civil society, agreed by consensus the intention to continue the Decade after 2015 by taking into account the lessons learned during the process and the new context created with the EU Framework. This consensus was formulated into a new Declaration of the Decade:
In 2005, eight governments declared 2005–15 as the Decade of Roma Inclusion, and were soon joined by others committed to eliminating discrimination and closing the unacceptable gaps between Roma and the rest of society. Under the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, many more states and the EU have voiced the same commitment. While some progress has been made, we recognize that much more needs to be done.
Accordingly, we reaffirm the principles of the Decade and commit to continue efforts-considering various ways of cooperation- to ensure the full inclusion and integration of Roma into our societies, beyond 2015. In particular, we will continue to work closely with Roma and non-Roma civil society, international organizations and other partners to achieve the goals spelled out in our action plans and integration strategies and to comply with our obligations under international law. To that end, we pledge to take efforts to streamline and harmonize the Decade process and the EU framework process, including creating and implementing a unified reporting framework.
By the end of 2013 Albania and Montenegro signed the Declaration and the Secretariat continued discussion with the governments of Slovakia and Romania; the remaining participating governments will be consulted further in 2014. The Montenegrin Presidency accepted the offer of the Romanian government to host a meeting on the reform of the Decade. The meeting, held on 20 February 2014 in Bucharest, brought together all the Decade partners for focused discussions on the details of the Decade reform after 2015.
It provided some modest progress to open questions by designing a comprehensive plan on how the Decade will function internally and how it will position itself towards the EU Framework - summary points of the discussions. The next face-to-face discussion will be at the 26th ISC Meeting in June in Montenegro.