The Council of Europe and Roma Youth
The work of the Council of Europe is based on the values of respect for and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. At different levels, through a variety of tools (legal, political or educational), the Council of Europe supports the creation in Europe of societies based on a culture of peace and human rights.
The work of the Council of Europe regarding the situation of the Roma started when the Parliamentary Assembly adopted its Recommendation 563 (1969) on the “Situation of Gypsies and other travellers in Europe”. A series of recommendations, meetings and seminars followed, with a clear focus on education and non-discrimination. Later, the themes tackled were extended to equality of opportunities, Roma women, training and education, the fight against racism and xenophobia, and youth.
In October 2010, the Council of Europe High Level Meeting on Roma resulted in the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma (CM(2010)133 final), which has become a guiding document for all the activities that the Council of Europe undertakes regarding Roma people.
It is based on the following priorities:
- Non-discrimination, citizenship, women and children’s rights
- Social inclusion, including education, housing and healthcare
- Empowerment and better access to justice.
The European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights have also been important instruments of the Council of Europe to make governments respect their commitments to the human rights of the Roma. Several cases relate to discrimination, school segregation, forced evictions, attacks on Roma villages and destruction of property, racially-biased police investigations, and forced sterilisation of Roma women, to name a few. The Court has recognised that the Roma are “a specific type of disadvantaged and vulnerable minority” who “require special protection” (the case of D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic). Several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights are particularly relevant to situations of discrimination faced by the Roma population, namely article 14, which prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention, and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 to the Convention, which extends the scope of protection to any right set forth by law, and, in so doing, introduces a general prohibition of discrimination.
The youth sector of the Council of Europe has associated young Roma with its policy and activities since 1995, when a ground-breaking training course for Roma youth leaders was held at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg.
During the last 20 years, the Council of Europe has also:
- supported the development of Roma youth networks, through study sessions with Roma European youth networks covering human rights education, youth mobilisation, the management of Roma youth organisations, and intercultural dialogue
- organised activities where the concerns of Roma young people were particularly relevant, such as young migrants, young women, violence in everyday life or gender equality
- carried out training courses for youth leaders and youth workers, such as the series of long-term training courses on Participation and Citizenship of minority youth, and the Enter! project on access to social rights for young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods (2010-2012)
- supported local pilot projects by the European Youth Foundation.
In 2011, the Council of Europe organised a Roma Youth Conference which brought together some 60 Roma youth activists, members of youth organisations and international institutions to discuss a co-ordinated approach to tackling Roma youth issues. The participants in the Conference developed guidelines for what the Council of Europe and other partners should take up as themes for their future projects and actions in the following five years, in the areas of youth work and youth policies; a Roma Youth Action Plan was developed based on the Conference input. The Roma Youth Action Plan became a response by the Council of Europe to challenges faced by Roma young people in Europe, particularly in relation to their empowerment, participation in policy decision-making processes and structures at European level, and multiple realities of discrimination.
The Action Plan includes activities of the Youth Department and of other sectors of the Council of Europe, along with activities proposed by other partners, first and foremost, youth organisations: Forum of European Roma Young People (FERYP), ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network, and the European Youth Forum.
The Roma Youth Action Plan is articulated around six themes, as follows:
- Strengthening Roma youth identity
- Addressing multiple discrimination and recognising multiple identities
- Building a stronger Roma youth movement
- Increasing the capacity of Roma youth organisations to participate in policy making
- Human rights and human rights education
- Combating discrimination and antigypsyism.
The Plan is implemented through a variety of activities, from capacity-building activities for Roma youth organisations, to seminars and conferences, policy debates, production of educational tools, summer schools and training courses. Non-formal education methodologies are applied in the activities of the Plan.
As far as youth participation is concerned, the Roma Youth Action Plan makes a very strong statement: in order to tackle the wishes, needs and aspirations of Roma young people, their voice needs to be listened to, and they need to be involved in all the steps of the process. This is why this publication also came about. The Roma Youth Action Plan strives to demonstrate that, given the right, means, space, opportunity and support, Roma young people take an active role in changing their environment, in developing actions for a better life, in affirming Roma identity and in fighting for human rights. This publication is part of the Roma Youth Action Plan and aims to exemplify this approach to Roma youth participation. It is also part of the youth policy of the Council of Europe, as defined in Agenda 2020.
For more information, see: www.coe.int/youth/roma