Roma Standing Conference
Roma Standing Conference is set-up as a national platform for elaboration of consolidated positions on issues important for the Roma community. It will assist LIDER in the advocacy efforts.
We aim to make sure Roma voices are heard in the upcoming parliamentary election in 2021. The initiative will strive to ensure political committment towards the Roma community on behalf of people from different political parties runing for MPs from the region of Blagoevgrad. We will seek to do that through a series of training for Roma leaders, community meetings, partnership seminars with non-Roma allies and advocacy efforts. Increased informed Roma participation in the elections is expected.
Region of Blagoevgrad - both the town of Blagoevgrad and 4 other localities in the region
The Roma community in the region of Blagoevgrad is traditionally disengaged from political processes. According to the 2011 census, Roma represent around 5% of the population in the region, although our assessment is the actual percentage is nearer to 10%. This population is in unequal footing in terms of housing, employment, access to education, healthcare and other services. Our experience in working on the ground shows that the community is normally distrustful to authorities as a result of years of unkept political promises along with scapegoating the Roma community to mobilize nationalistic vote. The relationship between the community and those in power (or running) is however not broken beyond repair.
While the Roma community does need specific measures to overcome the deep social exclusion it endures, that does not need to happen at the expense of the community at large. LIDER association has been designing a new model for cooperation which aligns the interests of the Roma community with other social groups and creates an environment where authorities are held accountable to their commitments. The model requires engaging broader groups within the Roma community, train Roma leaders and reach community agreement on priorities to be communicated to those seeking power. All of this is in the tradition of active civic participation within a community which is ususually excluded from the process.
1) Roma community – investment in the Roma community to advocate for itself on local level and inspire active citizenship; this group includes 5 initiative groups in 4 localities and 15 Roma leaders which will undergo specific trainings.
2) Local stakeholders – professional and social groups with potential interest of implementation of Roma integration policies. These are possible allies on issues that concern Roma.
3) Candidates for parliament in the Region of Blagoevgrad – they will be e approached by advocacy efforts and invited to take specific commitment to address the issues for the community in the region. The project will reach out to candidates from the whole political spectre and independent, but leaving out nationalistic formations who use heavy anti-Roma rhetoric.
• Leadership trainings for Roma leaders – 15 Roma leaders from 4 localities will be trained on political process, issues prioritization, self-interest identification and alignment;
• Community meetings – 10 community meetings with Roma in 4 localities to identify pressing issues, prioritization and community agreements
• Partnership seminars – 10 partnership seminars with social and professional (non-Roma) groups to align their interests with issues concerning the Roma community
• Advocacy meetings – meetings and consultations with candidates for Parliament running in the region within the political spectrum
• Political forums: one political forum with candidates before the elections to present platforms and commitments; one forum with elected MPs from the region after the elections.
The direct impact in the Roma community includes increased leadership and community engagement capacity among leaders from four localities, along with engagement of wider groups of Roma in prioritizing and communicating pressing issues for the community. A shift in the perception of political process and re-imagined relationship with authorities and policy-makers is also expected through the direct contact between the community and power holders and achieving political commitments. As a long term-impact, the project strives to achieve positive policy developments in the region (with political commitments being implemented).
It is expected that new coalitions between Roma and non-Roma groups are built around shared interest and that political actors change their perspective on Roma voters.
Europe still struggles to meet the needs of its Roma communities, which still face wide-spread social exclusion and are often disengaged from political processes. The project seeks to provide a model that will change that by investing in the community itself, but also in its relationships with non-Roma social and professional groups around shared interests. This model can provide a cutting-edge approach in how to both boost active citizenship within the Roma community, while also building new relationship with power-holders around commitment and accountability. Such a model can be applied elsewhere and will be promoted through networks of Roma Standing Conference and Civic Europe in Bulgaria and beyond. It can also be applied in regards to other social groups who suffer exclusion.
The leadership, staff and volunteers around LIDER association are from the Roma community and are well aware of the challenges Roma face. Through our direct work with Roma communities and institutions in the region we have been able to identify major weak spots in the way Roma-related policies are being elaborated and implemented. We came to the conclusion that no significant change is going to happen unless a strong Roma community, in coalition with non-Roma groups, pushes for it and holds power-holders accountable. This project is also a statement against paternalistic approaches in working with Roma communities, which look at the community as a problem, rather than a resource and source of power and inspiration. We are undertaking this project to empower ourselves and our community.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Human resources (staff, trainers, local leaders): 22 000 EUR
Trainings (travel costs, accommodation, catering, materials): 6 800 EUR
Community events and partnership seminars (room rental, catering, materials): 4 000 EUR
Advocacy efforts (travel costs, catering): 2 000 EUR
Political forums (travel costs, room rental, catering, materials, streaming): 5 000 EUR
Indirect costs (office, print, overheads): 2 000 EUR
We are interested to recieve any feedback, but experience/know-how on identifying social and professionals groups of the Roma community and engaging them in a process of alligning self-interest would be particularly welcome. Other experience on similar political process will be also appreciated.