Roma Youth Conference – Critical Resumee by ternYpe

Participants: ternYpe International Roma Youth Network, FERYP Forum of European Roma Young People, Pakiv European Network, ERGO Network, other Roma youth organizations (local-national)
Stakeholders: OSI Open Society Institute, OSCE-ODIHR, ERIO, ERRC, REF Roma Education Fund, Advisory Council on Youth / Joint Council

Background of the Conference
ternYpe participated with 10 people, representing all member organizations, in the Roma Youth Conference, which was hosted between September 26-30th by the Council of Europe. The conference brought together 50 representatives and youth leaders of Roma youth organizations and young Roma between 18 and 30 years in order to discuss needs and challenges of Roma youth and youth organizations, to exchange experience in youth work and to develop guidelines for a Roma Youth Action Plan (RYAP) of the Council of Europe and beyond for 2012-2013.

Expectations of ternYpe:
ternYpe expressed during the preparatory process and at the beginning of the conference its expectations that we want to have enough space for the participants to discuss, to share and to learn, as well as to base the work on youth participation and transparency. This conference should make a change and have a great impact on the activism, mobilization and empowerment of Roma youth! ternYpe expected a concrete, realistic, but ambitious Roma Youth Action Plan based on the participation of youth and youth organizations and a better coordination between international stakeholders. Unfortunately, most of our expectations were not fulfilled, but we look forward to continue this process and to contribute with our experience and activism.

 

Program overview:

  • Tuesday: Introduction, Expectations, Lessons learnt (networks and stakeholders), ECRI/ERRC (HR dimension, discrimination of Roma youth), needs and challenges
  • Wednesday: youth-led protest against current extremism in BG/CZ/HU in front of European Parliament (http://www.romayouth.com/participants-roma-youth-conference-strasbourg-call-paying-attention-anti-gypsy-protests-bulgaria), presentation of CoE Strasbourg Declaration, presentation on youth policy, working groups on vision/purpose of RYAP, evening meeting with MEP Livia Jaroka on EU Roma Strategies and our public action
  • Thursday: presentation of CAHROM, working groups on guidelines to Roma Youth Action Plan, presentation in plenum
  • Friday: comments of the general rapporteur, working groups on follow-up (in the networks), plenum presentation, stakeholders presenting themselves and their work, evaluation

 

Working group themes on the guidelines

  • Youth policy responses
  • Empowerment and participation
  • Building/sustaining the Roma youth movement
  • Non-formal and formal education
  • Human Rights and Human Rights Education
  • Discrimination and Racism
  • Diversity within the Roma community (women, LGBT, disabled, …)

Conclusions on the Roma Youth Action Plan (guidelines)
Each of the working groups elaborated a long list of guidelines and actions for the RYAP which will be documented in the official conference report. Ivan Ivanov (general rapporteur, director of ERIO) selected the key points which he presented as draft conclusions on the last conference day. However, until now there is not a clear outline and structure of the RYAP, which will now be elaborated by the Secretariat of the CoE Directorate of Youth and Sports.

 

Positive impressions

  • Potential of Roma youth activism: The conference has shown the strength and potential of Roma youth activism, their dedication to stand up against current racism and extremism, the diversity of Roma youth work all around Europe from local to international level, the capacity of young people to address their needs and challenges, and the openness of the youth organizations and networks to engage, to cooperate and to develop their own work further.
  • ternYpe: ternYpe has shared whenever possible its experience, as well as bad and good practices. ternYpe has positioned itself clearly that empowerment, mobilization, participation and self-organization should be the strong focus of a Roma Youth Action Plan in order to invest into Roma youth activism on grassroots level. Moreover, ternYpe tried to share the value of being a network and having a common understanding through a long-term cooperation and learning process.
  • Stakeholders: The stakeholders showed a great dedication and interest in the issue, the openness to learn from Roma youth and youth organizations and very positive signs to cooperate among themselves and to coordinate their efforts in the future!

feedback and criticism of the Conference
ternYpe explained during the preparatory process and at the beginning its clear expectations towards the conference. Besides many positive aspects explained above, our expectations have not been fulfilled regarding the following aspects.

  • Lack of space for young people: As participants we listened to many presentations on many interesting aspects (youth policy, HR approach), but also we lost a lot of time on issues without top priority (CoE structures). Youth debates mainly took place in working groups. The plenum was limited to presentations of working groups and stakeholders. Stakeholders should find a better way (e.g. on paper, stands, creative in-conference demonstrations) to sell their work, structures, programs and funding opportunities.
  • Selection of priorities and methods: The priorities of the program were not adequate in order to meet the objectives of the conference towards a RYAP. As ternYpe we do not see the added value of the Strasbourg Declaration, as well as of long explanations of the CoE structures such as CAHROM. Certainly this information and the presentations (such as ECRI, ERRC, youth policy) were interesting, but this could be shifted into informal ways, thus giving more space to participants to focus on the work regarding the guidelines.
  • Lack of sharing and evaluation: A Roma youth movement is build on the strength of activism and grassroots mobilization. Therefore, we need to bring good and bad practices from local/national level to such an international conference, in order to bring youth activism and new approaches and strategies forward. ternYpe feels that this was missing in the conference. The Council of Europe mainly presented its structures and results in quantity, than in quality, strategies and lessons learnt (Presentation of money spent for Roma youth projects by the European Youth Foundation; however, no visible outlines, concepts, evaluations of projects. No explanation and no evaluation of former strategies of the CoE concerning Roma youth and other migrant/minority youth to slowly develop “lessons learnt” as a basis of a future Roma Youth Action Plan).
  • Limited youth participation: Based on the limited time in working groups and in the plenum, there was no space for the youth to really discuss deeper their concerns and thoughts. As participants we could mainly develop a big brainstorming, but there was no time and space to discuss this further, to clarify our priorities and be part of the decision-making where the Roma Youth Action Plan should be heading.
  • Limited transparency: The aim of the conference was to develop guidelines for a Roma Youth Action Plan. However, it was generally unclear what the Council of Europe expects and intends to do, and how the follow-up procedures in the development of the RYAP will be. Moreover, on the 2nd day the agenda was changed and we had to work for a 5-10 year vision, although this might have been rather a “purpose” for the 2-year RYAP. Later on the plenary never came back to discuss a short and clear vision (just the working-groups presented their thoughts, partially already on the guidelines and themes). This purpose or vision also was never mentioned in the draft outcome document presented on the last conference day.  We consider this process as partially intransparent and confusing for participants in order to share a clear objective and a common understanding of the work.
  • Outcome: ternYpe considers that there is a valuable ground of ideas, guidelines, concepts and activities which have been discussed. However, we cannot be satisfied with the outcomes, as we stopped with a brainstorm. Intensive discussions would have been necessary to debate from the experience of the participants and to clarify priorities for the future in order not to be lost and do nothing in the endless list of things that could be done.

 

Improvements in a future conference

  • Take into account the expectations of participants and preparatory partners.
  • Diversify methodologies and make use of external trainers.
  • Create space for young people to discuss, share and learn. Give us time to discuss and elaborate concrete, realistic and ambitious conclusions. Believe in the power of youth to have its own strong debates going further than brainstorming.
  • Create a forum where youth can present its conclusions to stakeholders and to mainstream their concerns in the CoE structures and beyond (and not the other way around).
  • Explain clearly the aims and objectives of the conference and of the Roma Youth Action Plan, as well as the procedures of the follow-up.

 

Expected follow-up by the CoE

  • Participation in the development of the Roma Youth Action Plan: We expect to receive a draft (pre and final) of the RYAP in order to participate and contribute from our perspective. We expect to have at least 2 weeks time for feedback in order to coordinate the input of the ternYpe member organizations and other interested youth groups. We are looking forward to giving concrete feedback to this outline and we hope that this feedback will be reflected in the final report.

Follow-up as possible parts of the Roma Youth Action Plan:

  • Coordination of the stakeholders: ternYpe expects the Council of Europe to strengthen the coordination of the stakeholders, to bring the European Commission (DG and SALTO Diversity Resource Centre) and the European Youth Forum onboard. We also expect the Youth Directorate to mainstream Roma youth in the CoE structures, and to coordinate all Roma youth related issues and initiatives between the CoE structures and Roma youth networks.
  • Evaluation, lessons learnt, research and visibility on Roma youth (activism): Evaluate former strategies and projects of the CoE and European Youth Foundation concerning Roma youth. Bring expertise, strategies and action plans on the table concerning the empowerment and strengthening of the youth movement of other groups (minorities, migrants, vulnerable groups, …). Explore the potential of a research on Roma youth and youth activism (youth work) about lessons learnt and bad/good practices, as well to develop a database of Roma youth groups, networks and create a platform to give visibility to Roma youth activism.
  • European Youth Centres: Provide the youth networks with the possibility to make use of the European Youth Centres to strengthen networking, development of structures, memberships, capacity. Explore to provide this independently of the regular long-lasting application procedure (application 1 year before realization), as otherwise there is not enough time to realize anything during a 2 year Action Plan.
  • European Youth Foundation: continue to mainstream Roma youth and to strengthen Roma youth as priority.

 

Contribution and follow-up by ternYpe

  • ternYpe will explore during our next General Assembly in November how we can contribute based on our own strategy and action plan to the RYAP.
  • ternYpe will share information on the RYAP and strengthen the networking and exchange of experience among its member organizations and other interested Roma youth organizations.
  • Reply (in cooperation with interested participants of the conference) to the letter of Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, to draw attention on current racism and extremism in Bulgaria and generally on the issues of Roma youth
  • ternYpe will discuss with the other Roma youth networks the date, place and agenda of another networking meeting at the end of 2011 (based on the support of OSI), taking into account the possibility of inviting the other relevant stakeholders.