Access to Justice and Human Rights
With support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) successfully implemented a four-year regional program in Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. Implemented from July 2010 to February 2014, the program—Partnership for Roma Protection, Prevention and Promotion—provided legal assistance, legal education and opportunities for cross-border networking and collaboration, and supported public advocacy for Roma communities. We worked directly with committed and effective local partners: the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives (BILI), the Center for Legal Aid and Regional Development (CLARD) in Kosovo, the Roma Women Organization of Macedonia (known as DAJA) in Macedonia, Romani Center for Social Intervention and Studies (CRISS) in Romania and the Novi Sad Humanitarian Center (NSHC) in Serbia. We also collaborated with Roma communities, activists and government officials.
Through the program, ABA ROLI established 44 legal aid clinics and provided free legal services to 8,272 Roma beneficiaries in Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. These consultations enabled Roma individuals to obtain identification cards, ownership certificates for their property, health and social services, and afforded other beneficiaries legal representation in divorce proceedings, child custody cases and other disputes.
Over the four years, we organized numerous public events and conducted legal awareness campaigns to discuss basic legal rights. In cooperation with local partners, ABA ROLI carried out 29 community law schools for 1,251 people. These community law schools provided vulnerable Roma communities, including in remote areas, vital information about their rights and mechanisms to enforce those rights. Our program also supported more than 20 strategic court cases and helped to build the capacity of advocates to combat stigmatization and discrimination of Roma, fight hate crimes and challenge school segregation. The program provided tailor-made training and education to 218 Roma leaders and activists on effective advocacy at local, national and regional levels. Overall, during a time of widespread and institutionalized discrimination against the Roma, the program made an important impact on ordinary people’s lives by helping to address their marginalization and by empowering the Roma to become active citizens in their respective societies.