Regional Initiative to Promote Roma Rights in the Balkans

September 2010

The Roma, one of the most marginalized groups in Europe, face widespread,deeply-ingrained institutional and social discrimination. To combat this situation, 12 European countries recently launched a new initiative, “The Decade of Roma Inclusion,” designed to fight discrimination and increase Roma access to housing, health care, education and jobs. Despite the regiona lcommitment, many Roma remain unaware of existing mechanisms to protect theirrights and incidents of discrimination or violence persist. Compounding this problem is the lack of trust between Roma communities and government authorities.

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) recently launched a regional program aimed at increasing access to justice among Roma communities inBulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania. As part of this program, which isfunded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, we partner with local advocacy and legal non-government organizations (NGOs), including the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives, the Roma Woman Organization in Macedonia, the Novi Sad Humanitarian Center in Serbia and the Roma Center for Social Intervention and Studies in Romania.

Beginning in October, ABA ROLI’s NGO partners will launch legal clinics ineach country and provide consultations to Roma clients on housing, labor law, employment law, health care and education. When necessary, legal clinics willidentify cases for strategic litigation, with the selected cases highlighting theneed for the enforcement of existing anti-discrimination legislation. Local partners will operate community law schools and outreach campaigns to increase Roma communities’ awareness of legal rights and of protection mechanisms. ABA ROLI will also sponsor a series of regional meetings for NGO partners and Roma community leaders to strengthen their advocacy work on the national level.

For more information about the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s work with Roma and in the Balkans, contact us at rol@staff.abanet.org.

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