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The continuing struggle of Roma communities across the world – New report by UN expert on minorities

GENEVA (16 June 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, today called for greater international and national attention to the plight of Roma communities around the world, who are frequently economically, politically and socially marginalized, and experience severe forms of discrimination.

“While the reasons for the marginalization of Roma are complex, an overarching factor is the deeply embedded social and structural discrimination Roma face worldwide, including anti-Gypsyism,” Ms. Izsak told the UN Human Rights Council  during the presentation of her latest report*.

“I urge States to place Roma rights at the heart of all strategies and policies related to human and minority rights, social inclusion and development, with explicit targets for Roma communities,” the rights expert said.

In her report, the Special Rapporteur cautioned that many of the current programmes designed to assist Roma tend to focus on short-term, issue-specific projects that fail to adopt an integrated approach that addresses Roma communities disadvantage at many levels.

Ms. Izsak urged all policy-makers to think outside the ‘poverty’ model, and “incorporate all aspects of minority rights into strategies that address Roma disadvantage, including the protection and promotion of Roma identity, language and culture, the guarantee of dignity and equality, and effective political and economic participation.”

The report, which presents data from various regions highlighting the discrimination and marginalisation that Roma face across the globe, underscores the lack of attention to the situation of Roma outside Europe, and notes the ongoing invisibility of many of these communities. 

“I remain deeply alarmed about the lack of Roma representation in local, national and international decision-making bodies, especially in institutions explicitly established to protect and promote their rights,” Ms. Izsak said.

“Creating conditions for the effective participation of Roma in all aspects of the life of the State, including in decision-making bodies, should be considered by States as an integral aspect of good governance and a key priority in efforts to ensure equality and non-discrimination,” she added.

In her report, the expert also condemns the widespread use of stereotypes of Roma in the media. “Negative depictions of Roma, whether by the formal media, on social media, or in political discourse is not only a denigration of Roma identity, but impacts negatively on Roma community members’ sense of inclusion in the national psyche,” she said.

“The media should promote non-stereotypical portrayals of Roma, including through providing greater visibility to Roma self-representation, history and culture,” the Special Rapporteur said, emphasizing the potential that traditional and new media have to promote intercultural dialogue between Roma and non-Roma communities.

(*) Check the ‘Comprehensive study of the human rights situation of Roma worldwide, with a particular focus on the phenomenon of anti-Gypsyism’ (A/HRC/29/24):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session29/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Ms. Rita Izsák (Hungary) was appointed as Independent Expert on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2011 and subsequently her mandate was renewed as Special Rapporteur on minority issues in March 2014. She is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.  Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Minorities/SRMinorities/Pages/SRminorityissuesIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/Minorities.aspx

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Jacqui Zalcberg (+41 22 917 9271 / jzalcberg@ohchr.org) or write to minorityissues@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en