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Roma inclusion - can cities be the driver of change?

Edited on

09 October 2017


Roma is the largest minority group in Europe who keeps on being confined to the margins of society. Cities are best placed to make use of the people they have with strong community based-know how, and to re-deploy their skills to address Roma issues. Read the article published in the URBACT Tribune "PDF iconRoma_inclusion.pdf". Written by Ann Morton Hyde, Lead Expert of the ROMA-NeT project, it shows that "what we need is not so much a clever solution but a new culture of working together with Roma communities".

An URBACT Project on Roma Inclusion: ROMA-NeT to pioneer the way other cities can follow
This article draws in particular on the work of the URBACT ROMA-Net project. The nine European cities partners in the network recognise that Roma exclusion is multi-layered, deep-rooted and complex and support an integrated and co-operative approach to create opportunities for Roma. According to Ann Morton Hyde, this collaboration will support Roma communities' involvement in terms of providing support, mediation, advocacy, self-representation and active participation in the supply of local service provision. The ROMA-NeT partnership provides a relevant platform of local stakeholders from which to share the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists.

The challenge of a better access to services: the work of sectorial mediators at community level

Ann Morton Hyde explains in this paper that ROMA-Net partner cities have critically analyzed what and how core services are currently being -or have been in the past- supplied to other disadvantaged groups in the key area of education, health, housing and employment. Cities can create intermediary links and mediators to make existing services more accessible and more appropriate. The cooperation between cities and NGOs is thus crucial for leading successful projects, since the skills for developing projects belong more to the NGO sector.

Mapping studies revealed there is a vast array of untapped expertise to be drawn out from successful implementation of a wide range of community initiatives across partner cities. One of the most successful initiatives supplied by NGOs in different countries has been mediation or intermediary services to link the Roma community to vital public services. In Karvina, Czech Republic, dedicated fieldworkers provide intermediary assistance to implement all major initiatives being undertaken in the city and are involved in all aspects of the community. Their responsibilities range from assisting with housing applications, co-ordinating health forums to accompanying children to ensure their school attendance.

Housing, tenure of housing and land are major issues when it comes to Roma inclusion

According to Ann Morton Hyde, there are few examples of integrated urban regeneration activities led by municipalities and focusing on Roma communities. But for example in Brno, the second largest city in Czech Republic, 3% of the population is Roma. Many of the Roma families are in debt and live in run-down apartments without paying rent. Idea emerges to have tenants help the authorities to reconstruct their own homes, so that they could pay back their debts and negotiate valid leases. The NGO and local authorities set up a "work-for-debt" programme. This work consisted mainly of cleaning the unused spaces, and the money earned was deducted from their debts. As a result, a large number of people not only cleared their debts but have also started to make regular rent payments. The key to success has been the active involvement of residents in the management and administration as well as financial support and commitment from the local authorities. The project has a voluntary Self and Administration and Management Committee, and this example should be looked upon as a model of good practice relevant in all cities.

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