The time for change is now

The past four decades have seen enormous changes confronting both the Romani people, and those who study us and work with us. For so many Roma, these changes have meant adapting once again to new and typically hostile surroundings, seeking security in employment, education, housing and in health and legal care. For the non-Romani world it has meant making room for newcomers who arrive with a complex baggage of stereotypes and a legacy of persecution.
 
Anti-Roma hate speech and violence stir dark memories of events more than 70 years ago which brought this continent to the brink of the moral abyss. Extremism is once again finding its range and its voice, bringing a poisonous cocktail of ancient gossip, medieval superstition and callous discrimination into mainstream politics.
 
“We must stand together as believers in common decency and the fundamental values of human rights and the rule of law and condemn in the strongest terms those whose only purpose is division and discord. Politicians and media organisations should not have license to use their bully pulpits to whip up anti-Roma prejudice.” said Mr. Rudko Kawczynski, President of the European Roma and Travellers Fourm. 
 
In order to succeed in eliminating discrimination, it is crucial for everyone to understand that it expresses itself in many different forms. It is not only the most overt examples,  such as the use of racial slurs or hate graffiti. Nor is it just the denial of employment, housing or education due to ethnic or cultural background.  Discrimination can also take on much more subtle forms, and involve systemic barriers to access leading to real exclusion.
 
 
‘I call upon all States to honour their legally and politically binding obligations, including commitments, for those in a position to do so, to give the Roma and Traveller communities equal opportunities and assistance. Today, I encourage all States which have not yet done so, to accede to all these legally and politically binding documents as soon as possible.’ said Mr. Kawczynski.
 
There are enormous challenges ahead in the quest for a equal opportunities for all -- from achieving more effective coordination and mobilization of resources at the international level, to building better capacity at the national and local levels.  All of us can play a part in raising awareness of these challenges; all of us can play our part in overcoming them. 

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The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), which has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe and a special status with this institution, is Europe’s largest and most inclusive Roma and Traveller organisation. It brings together Europe’s main international Roma---NGOs and more than 1,500 national Roma and Traveller organisations from most of the Council of Europe member states.