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UN expert urges political action to fight ‘anti-Gypsyism’ as a root cause of Roma marginalisation

International Roma Day – 8 April 2015

GENEVA (8 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, today has called for strong and tangible political commitment to fight anti-Roma bias and combat the deeply embedded social and structural discrimination that continues to infringe upon the human rights of Roma.

On International Roma Day, the human rights expert urges the world to move away from the paradigm of the ‘Roma issue’ and rather focus on putting their human rights, including minority rights, at the centre of all State inclusion policies and measures.

The Special Rapporteur will be presenting a ‘Comprehensive study of the human rights situation of Roma worldwide, with a particular focus on the phenomenon of anti-Gypsyism’ to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015. Her global report will reflect her key concerns on Roma inclusion, both inside and outside of Europe, and provide important recommendations to Governments and relevant stakeholders.

“Discrimination and racism against Roma come in many different forms, ranging from silent indifference to hate speech and violence against individuals or entire communities. Furthermore, growing populism and extremism in many countries with significant Roma populations have deepened societal divisions, causing more stigmatization of Roma communities. Unfortunately this has led to a desensitization of the public, and to the resurgence of unacceptable myths about Roma criminality, unworthiness and inferiority.

It is due time for our societies to stop tolerating any public discourse that perpetuates stereotypical, racist, hateful or discriminatory views about Roma, and take effective action against such discourses. We must reject anti-Gypsyism in all its forms.

Political and public leaders play a vital role in combatting bias and discrimination against Roma through reinforcing the basic foundations of good governance and democracy and promoting the importance of minority rights protection in line with international standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. I also highlight the role of the media, which must take responsibility to guarantee the objective portrayal or Roma, refrain from sensationalist media coverage, and give space to Roma self-representation.

There is an urgent need for strengthened political will, especially at the national and local level, and an openness to learn from past mistakes in policies and planning in order to strengthen dedicated institutional attention to Roma issues and Roma leadership, in order to break the vicious cycle of stigma, discrimination and marginalization.

I therefore call on Governments 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. I urge all actors to think outside the ‘poverty’ paradigm, 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.

I also 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. Given the unprecedented level of Roma intellectuals, professionals and activists, the slogan ‘nothing about us without us’ must be put into practice in the field of Roma rights.”

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. As Special Rapporteur she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Minorities/IExpert/Pages/IEminorityissuesIndex.aspx

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

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