|The Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005-2015, is an initiative adopted by eight countries in Central and Southeast Europe, and supported by the international community. It represents the first cooperative effort to change the lives of Roma in Europe. An action framework for governments, the Decade will monitor progress in accelerating social inclusion and improving the economic and social status of Roma across the region.
The idea of the Decade emerged from the first high level regional conference on Roma which was held in Budapest, Hungary in 2003. At that event, prime ministers and senior government officials from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia announced their intention to launch the Decade. Their backing signals a sea change in Roma policy and the political will necessary for reform. Other countries are encouraged to join the Decade.
The Decade is a political commitment by countries to reduce disparities in key economic and human development outcomes for Roma through implementing policy reforms and programs designed to break the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion. The Decade of Roma Inclusion is a major international effort to meet the common European challenge of Roma inclusion in a coordinated, open and transparent way.
In preparation for the Decade, each country has identified a limited number of measurable national goals for improvements. Planning for the Decade has been guided by an International Steering Committee, made up of representatives of governments, Roma, international donors, and other international organizations, which established four priority areas for the Decade-education, employment, health, and housing. The Steering Committee also determined three cross-cutting themes: income poverty, discrimination, and gender. Each country has developed an action plan that specifies the goals and indicators in these areas.
Roma participation is a core value of the Decade. Roma representatives and civil society organizations are involved in every stage. Roma shaped and defined the vision from the outset and have been involved in the Steering Committee and preparation of country action plans. Roma civil society groups and experts identified policy priorities and played a key role in defining Decade goals and targets. Roma participation will be central to regular oversight and monitoring of the process over the next ten years.
The international community is supporting the Decade. This includes the Open Society Institute, the World Bank, the European Commission, the United Nations Development Program, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe, the Council of Europe Development Bank, among others, and most importantly, Roma leadership, including international Roma organizations.
The Decade is not another new institution or bureaucracy, nor is it a new pot of money. It is owned by the governments that signed on to it. Funding the Decade will presume the reallocation of existing resources in national budgets and aligning these plans with funding instruments of multinational, international, and bilateral donors.
An essential aspect of the Decade is improving the database for monitoring the status of Roma. In preparing its action plans, each country has identified indicators which it will use to measure progress in reaching its Decade goals. Monitoring these outcomes will require a combination of designing and implementing new data collection instruments, and upgrading existing data sources to ensure that Roma are effectively included. UNDP has been supporting these efforts through implementing a cross-country baseline survey and convening a data expert's group for sharing information.