WORLD BANK INVOLVEMENT IN ROMA ISSUES
The Role of the World Bank. The World Bank addresses Roma issues in the context of its work on poverty and economic development in the region. The comparative advantages of the Bank in Roma issues are: (i) raising politically sensitive issues as an objective information broker, bringing diverse interests and stakeholders together; (ii) supporting integrative and constructive analytical work which brings together economic and social issues which affect Roma and other vulnerable groups; (iii) sharing innovative approaches across countries and regions, and scaling up viable approaches, programs and projects; (iv) mainstreaming ethnicity into policy to make public services more inclusive; and (v) leveraging and informing the involvement of other donors.
Improving the Information Base. The Bank has increased the quality and availability of basic information on the welfare of Roma in CEE and the Balkans. Despite the severity of poverty and marginalization among Roma, information on their living conditions and the characteristics of their poverty has consistently been scarce and fragmented, due to methodological problems and the politicized nature of the issue. The World Bank’s analytical work has raised the profile of Roma issues in countries and partner institutions. Bank analysis related to Roma has a number of objectives, including identifying areas of concern, providing a basis for policy dialogue and project identification.
Analytical activities also include extensive dissemination and dialogue on findings. Because of the regional nature of the Roma issue, the Bank has made an extensive effort to share results and lessons across countries, like a workshop held in Bratislava in April 2001, together with the European Union and the OSI discussed project experience in Hungary and Slovakia and most importantly, regional conference “Roma in an Expanding Europe” in July 2003, event catalyzed an ongoing dialogue between new Roma leadership and wider policy community.
Key products have included:
- A regional study which summarizes the evidence related to poverty and the human development status of Roma. The report was launched at the Annual Meetings in Prague in September 2000, and has been widely disseminated since then.
- A qualitative study of poverty in Roma settlements in the Slovak Republic, co-financed by the Open Society Institute. The study was designed and implemented by Slovak sociologists, including Roma, to document the living conditions of Roma living in settlements on the outskirts of towns and villages. The report was launched through a series of seminars in Slovakia, including at the Parliament, as well as at a major event held in Washington during the 2002 Spring Annual Meetings, co-hosted with the Slovak Embassy.
- An inventory of Roma projects implemented in Hungary over the past decade. A team of Hungarian researchers compiled a comprehensive database of over 1,300 Roma projects, in addition to in depth case studies. The database has been made publicly available and used by the Hungarian government and other stakeholders for project planning.
- A regional study of Roma poverty in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. This report is based upon the first comparative cross-country household survey of Roma implemented in the region. The survey was coordinated by a team of researchers at Yale University and co-financed by the Bank.
- Conference edition “Roma in an Expanding Europe: Breaking the Poverty Cycle” brings together analysis done by teams of researchers in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the World Bank.
- Recent report “Poverty, Social Exclusion, and Ethnicity in Serbia and Montenegro, The Case of Roma” to analyze in-depth the determinants of deep and chronic Roma poverty and social exclusion, based on high-quality household surveys in Serbia and Montenegro.
Capacity Building and Strategy Development. The Bank supports policy development related to Roma at the country level, through sectoral dialogue, as well as institution-building for developing and implementing policies. Since the mid-1990’s most of the countries in CEE have established new institutions which are responsible for coordinating policy on Roma, and ethnicity in general. In Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania the Bank has supported the creation and strengthening of these new offices with grant resources from the Institutional Development Fund (IDF). Grant support includes installing mechanisms for policy formulation, monitoring projects and policies, referral services, support public relations and communications and coordination among NGOs and donors. The World Bank also serves as co-sponsor for the Cities Alliance application of the Hungarian Government to scale up the ongoing Roma Housing and Social Integration Program.
Operations. While the World Bank supports governments also through grants for Roma issues, loans are the main operational vehicle to support policies and programs to improve the welfare of the most vulnerable communities. Social Development Funds in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, while not explicitly targeted at Roma, support Roma sub-projects. The recently negotiated Social Inclusion Project’s activities in Romania specifically address the needs of Roma.
- In Bulgaria, the Regional Initiatives Fund supported employment generating micro-projects. 20 percent of the workers hired under the projects were Roma, and over 60 percent were ethnic minorities (e.g. Turks and Bulgarian Muslims). A successor project has been launched at the end of 2002 “Social Investment and Employment Promotion” Project to provide greater outreach among the Roma population.
- In Romania, 5 percent of the beneficiaries of the first Romanian Social Development Fund (RSDF) were Roma. Sub-projects included small-scale rural infrastructure (water supply, road rehabilitation), community-based social services (day care centers, information and counseling centers, family planning) and income generating activities (small brick manufacturing, handicrafts). The second RSDF, approved in 2002, targets Roma more intensively through the participation of Roma speaking facilitators and project supervisors, and translation of project materials into Roma language.
- Child Welfare projects in Romania and Bulgaria support the transition from institutions to community-based alternatives for care. In both countries, Roma constitute a disproportionate share of the children in orphanages and institutions for mentally and physically disabled children. In Bulgaria, the project explicitly targets ethnic minorities, through measures to prevent children from entering into institutions in the first place (e.g. preschool programs with language training).
- A post-conflict grant for FYR Macedonia supports Roma youth and families in the Suto Orizari neighborhood of Skopje, including activities to improve school attendance and quality of education.
- The negotiated Social Inclusion Project in Romania supports the implementation of priority objectives of the Government’s Joint Inclusion Memorandum during 2006-2010. The program would expand the Romania Social Development Fund’s activities to specifically address the needs of Roma, to increase participation of Roma children in targeted communities in early childhood education and to assist the National Agency for Roma (NAR) and its 8 regional branches to coordinate activities aimed at improving inclusive planning, monitoring and evaluation and project identification, preparation and implementation.
Direct support to NGOs. Through the Small Grants Program (SmGP) – managed by the Country Offices – the Bank directly supports a number of Roma projects. Grant amounts range from $2,000 to $5,000. In Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia support has been provided for small-scale initiatives in the areas of education, employment, housing and media related projects. The SmGP has also provided support to international Roma NGOs. It supported the Congress of the International Romani Union (IRU) which was held in Prague in 2000 and also provided resources to the World Roma Festival (Khamoro) in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
On a larger scale, through its Development Grant Facility (DGF), the Bank has supported the work of the Pakiv European Roma Fund. PAKIV is facilitating the initiation of a network of autonomous civic organizations and programs in Central and Eastern Europe that combat poverty, especially through the support of income-generating activities and new employment opportunities of local Roma and non-Roma poor.
Partnerships. World Bank involvement in Roma issues is closely coordinated with partner organizations, including the European institutions, local Roma NGOs and the Open Society Foundation. The Bank has participated with observer status on the Council of Europe’s Specialist Group on Roma/Gypsies since 1999. The World Bank also plays a prominent role in donor coordination and has convened and/or participated in donor meetings on Roma in Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia.
The World Bank is one of the initiator and supporter of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005-2015 as well as the Roma Education Fund. The Decade is an initiative adopted by eight countries in Central and Southeast Europe and it represents the first cooperative effort of the participating Governments, international community and Roma activists to bring a phenomenal and sustainable change into the life of Roma. The World Bank is administering the Decade Trust Fund financed out of contributions from all Decade countries as well as interested international partner organizations. DTF is to provide financial resources for cross-country technical support, training and workshops in the context of refining and implementing the national Decade action plans, and monitoring and evaluation of Decade implementation across the eight Decade countries.
The Roma Education Fund is to contribute to closing the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma, through policies and programs to support quality education for Roma including desegregation of educational systems.
The Roma Education Fund was created in the framework of the Decade of Roma Inclusion. Therefore it also shares the goals of the Decade.