VoRAE Executive Director participates Roma and Ashkali Inclusion Seminar

Today, 21st February 2018, the Office for Good Governance within the Prime Minister's Office in Cooperation with Office of the European Commission in Kosovo organized a Seminar on 'Roma and Ashkali Inclusion' Seminar.

The VoRAE Executive Director, Mr. Isak Skenderi, also participated the seminar and gave one of the opening speeaches we bring you in full:

Dear Mr. Haradinaj, Dear Ms. Apostolova, Dear  Ms. Fidalgo, Dear ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honor today to give a presentation on the position of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo, on behalf of civil society organizations working with these communities.

This year, the Republic of Kosovo marks its’ 10th anniversary of independence. Reports and analysis, we could read these days, speak of progress but also challenges.

Greater the challenges, greater the unhappiness;

And it is for that unhappiness that we must speak, and more importantly, act.

In Kosovo, the society does speak and does act. Maybe not enough, but they still do. The question however is, whether the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, speak up and act on issues which also affect their lives.

I must use the opportunity and thank the Government of Mr. Haradinaj for being very generous to Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in this term. Our voice has never been ‘represented’ more that with this Government.

I’ve lost a track of how many executives and advisers, coming from these communities, today sit in the Government. But we don’t hear much from them. We don’t hear them on subjects that affect the general population, but also on subjects that affect minorities in particular.

Kosovo can be used as an example of a state which creates opportunities to minorities to raise their voices; However, the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, do not obviously use that properly.

Have we been entrusted with a task we can not bear, it is a question we must ask ourselves?

But yet, we must continue, with the capacities and the skills we have to raise our voices, contribute to the building of this society in general and minorities in particular. Which is why, I wish to thank you all for this chance, as one of many but rather few, where we may, together, speak of real challenges and possible opportunities.

And challenges are many! We raised them two years ago in our last Seminar, and they didn’t change much! But the opportunities have!

You see, the civil society Organizations have for many years now, invested efforts and energy, together with the donor community, to create best models of inclusion. And, I’m happy to say that some of those made a direct and a visible change to the lives of the people on the ground.

Educational support to children through after-school model and scholarships have definitely helped reduce the gap in educational outcomes between Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians and non-Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. We praise the approval of the Administrative Instruction on Learning Centers by the former Minister of Education, Science and Technology, but yet we can not notice without mentioning slow reaction of the governmental structures to put this document in real use.

The housing conditions of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians are considerably improving. This doesn’t mean that all is solved! But at least, many have now been secured the minimum standard, with access to water and sanitation with functional bathrooms and safe living space. I need to give a special thanks to some municipalities for understanding, embracing and unreservedly supporting this model of intervention, which has proven to be effective and efficient.

But, I also need to say that lack of understanding and cooperation by some other is a key challenge for land allocation and creation of conditions for return of many Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians that for 19 years continue to live in substandard conditions in neighboring countries.

Roma are not popular anywhere in the world. The anti-Roma sentiment is unfortunately on the rise. And it affects, above all, the employment opportunities for the Roma. In Kosovo, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians continue to face the similar challenge. The unemployment level continues to hit high ceiling. Our hope was the Law on Civil Servants, which guarantees equal employment in civil service at central and local level, will at least make a change! Unfortunately, here as well, we faced with the wall of ignorance and discrimination by the institutional structures. It goes beyond reasonable logic to understand, what are the other reasons for rejecting Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians if not for open and visible discrimination. If the Government is not ready to do this, make a good example, our hopes that the private sector will do it, are as good as dead.

And finally, we thank the Government for adopting the Roma and Ashkali inclusion Strategy last year. Yet again, we fear that this document may again end up being in a paper only. Very few municipalities at local level have formally adopted it, and those that deed have allocated no to a very modest budget to it. The local monitoring mechanisms are not in place, and all this speaks of the seriousness to have this document implemented in reality.

It is important for our society to understands that it is not enough for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians to be treated equally. Our disadvantaged position calls for affirmative actions, specific actions and targeted budgets.

We hope to by our Government true interest and will to tackle with real problems and make tangible solutions that will affect the live of these people, who make a little more than 2% of the total population.

And that small, we cannot afford creating parallel world of our own for ourselves. The society must let us integrate in the existing one.

There is no time for discussions anymore. We must act, and we must act fast!!!

Thank you very much for your attention!

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