Launch of the Strategic EU Roma Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation
“Monitoring and reporting to enable policy learning”
12 October 2020
Birgit Van Hout
Regional Representative for Europe
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting the UN Human Rights Office to the launch of the new strategic framework. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who made it possible and in particular Szabolcs Schmidt and his team for their role. The development of the new Framework is one of the most participatory and transparent processes I have seen in the EU and for that – congratulations. Implementation will be national but also local and the responsibilities of States under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also apply to local authorities. It will therefore be critical that also at local level Roma participation is guaranteed.
We welcome the change in the name from “Framework for Roma integration” to “Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation.” This is significant, not just symbolically. The responsibility for change no longer lies only with the Roma who are called upon “to integrate.” The responsibility now clearly lies with States who have to remove the barriers that prevent the inclusion and participation of the Roma. Furthermore, for the first time, the framework acknowledges that the situation of the Roma cannot change without addressing antigypsism or prejudice among the majority population.
The use of human rights indicators, drawn directly from the indicators developed by the UN Human Rights Office, accompanied by clear targets significantly strengthens the Framework. This is also a first and it shows the potential for human rights progress that is created when the international human rights protection system and the regional protection system work in tandem. This is how we can close human rights gaps, ensure consistency and legal certainty for States and courts, while at the same time boosting internal – external policy coherence and the international credibility of the EU.
Indicators and targets are critical for policy learning – yes. But, it’s about more than that. Quantitative and qualitative measurements enhance accountability, which, along with participation and transparency, is a key element of the human rights approach to policy-making. Measurement gives us the hard data to back up accountability.
This brings me to the enduring refusal of some EU member States to collect disaggregated data, despite numerous recommendations from the UN treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review, and UN Special Rapporteurs. I know the history of Europe and the reason why several countries resist the collection of disaggregated data. From the international perspective, I can only emphasize that safeguards exist to mitigate the fears surrounding disaggregated data collection.
I would also like to highlight that States have committed to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in a manner consistent with their obligations under international law. As you know, leaving no one behind is a central principle of the Sustainable Development and the human rights agenda. Several EU Member States participated in the voluntary national reviews on the Sustainable Development Goals. As States are called upon to report to multiple international bodies and mechanisms, there is much coherence and efficiency to be gained. The monitoring that will be undertaken as part of the new Roma framework will usefully inform international processes, while States will benefit from greater synergies in their reporting obligations.
Member States will be asked to report on the implementation of national Roma strategic frameworks every two years from 2023 onwards, making full use of the portfolio of indicators. These reports will be made public and should be discussed in national parliaments.
Please allow me to flag that our experience from around the world has taught us the importance of independent monitoring in addition to self-reporting. We count on equality bodies as independent watch-dogs to play their part. In countries where equality bodies are not independent, measures should be taken to allow them to become independent. We also welcome the fact that the European Commission will support Roma civil society with capacity-building to enable Roma communities themselves to report on the implementation of the Framework, a voice that was painfully missing to date.
The UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe stands ready to continue to support tangible advances in the human rights of Roma in Europe, by supporting the European Union, EU Member States and the Western Balkans countries, and the Roma themselves in bringing an end to the discrimination and marginalization of the Roma which is a blot on Europe’s conscience. We commend the European Commission for the new Framework and call on EU member States to muster genuine political will at their level, because without it, all efforts will be in vain. Thank you.