Overcoming attitudes to engage with the Roma

Despite efforts at the local, national and European levels, the Roma people still continue to face high levels of social exclusion and poverty.

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Projects such as this are helping the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020, as set out in the EU 2020 growth strategy. The EU is facing some tough challenges, including an ageing population, an insufficiently qualified workforce, the need for greater innovation, striking a balance between economic growth and environmental degradation, and ensuring secure, clean energy supplies. Regional policy projects across the EU are playing an active role in dealing with these and many other challenges, by undertaking projects designed to generate employment, raise educational achievement, develop renewable energy sources, boost productivity and give all citizens access to opportunities. The projects and the regions play a pivotal role in this, as they generate real results that contribute to achieving the strategy’s key goals.

The Roma-Net project is focussed on helping the integration of Roma populations, which is seen as a key factor of an inclusive society, as well as in delivering the Lisbon Strategy goals. The partnership is made up of 10 European cities which are sharing expertise and spreading good practices, with the aim of improving and delivering local policy development, to create a stronger community cohesion between Roma populations and their neighbouring communities.

The Roma-Net project is funded by the URBACT II programme, which promotes sustainable urban development, enabling ‘cities’ to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, and reaffirming the key roles they play in facing increasingly complex societal changes.

An honest and just engagement

For many Roma, social and economic exclusion means poverty, discrimination, unemployment or informal exploitative work, dependency on social assistance, low or no educational attainment, poor health and inadequate living conditions often without legal tenure. In addressing these inadequacies, the project supports the partners, including lead partner Budapest in Hungary, in developing local action plans that facilitate better services.

The common aim behind all of the ROMA-Net activities is to influence change, to improve the services that support young Roma adults in their transition to adulthood, and to that end to have a positive impact on local policy development and local service implementation. Success in achieving these goals will come from overcoming negative attitudes and improving the consultation process, leading to an honest and just engagement with the Roma community.

Key point of focus

The EU recognises that there is a need for more active and effective policies concerning Roma inclusion.  As such, the project focuses on three themes. Firstly, ‘active community engagement and empowerment’ focuses on effective participatory activities and implementing tools, anti-discrimination awareness, and social marketing. Secondly, the ‘integrated and area based approach’ concentrates on service provision, tackling segregation using housing improvement as well as inclusive approaches to area based regeneration. Thirdly, the project seeks to create, support and use an intermediate labour market, thereby maximising the role of the social economy, social firms and social accounting.

Ultimately, this project is about ‘behaviour change’ and participatory community engagement. It calls for participants – officials, elected representatives and citizens alike – to behave differently and embrace new ways of working shoulder to shoulder with people that they are not used to sitting down at the same table with.

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