Published on Eurasian Perspectives

Roma inclusion: leveraging opportunities for social change

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April 8 was International Romani Day. As we celebrate the Roma people and their culture, we must remember the serious issues they face every day: stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion, and poverty.  

Watch our video blog and read the Q&As below to learn more about the Roma and why Roma inclusion is important for ending poverty in Europe.
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Q: What is the International Romani Day all about? (0:19)

A: It is a day to celebrate the Roma, the largest ethnic minority of 10–12 million people living in Europe. And they are the greatest poverty story in Europe. And the World Bank is interested in—and committed to—addressing poverty and exclusion for the Roma population.

Q: How far behind are the Roma compared to the rest of the population in Europe? (0:37)

A: On all indicators the Roma fare very poorly. They are highly stigmatized and discriminated against. According to our research, 80% of Roma live below the poverty line, one-third of them do not have access to tap water, and 1 in 3 Roma children don’t have sufficient food.

     [Download report: Being Fair, Faring Better: Promoting Equality of Opportunity for Marginalized Roma]

Q: Learning from the World Bank’s engagement with the Roma population, what can be done to change the situation and promote Roma inclusion? (1:14)

A: What we’ve learned is that data matters. Hard evidence matters. Over the past 20 years, the World Bank has gathered very interesting data, both qualitative and quantitative, on the situation of Roma women, men, and children. This database has informed our policy dialogue and project operations.
The World Bank is also working on a bottom-up approach to Roma inclusion. Macro-level policy imperatives are very important, but to be fully effective, they have to be matched by bottom-up approaches.
This means working at the community level with the Roma communities, who know best what their problems are and are best positioned to arrive at their own solutions. It is a win-win to match bottom-up solutions with macro-level approaches.

To the equation we need to add other stakeholders—civil society groups, academia and others who have a vested interest in Roma inclusion and can help us achieve better outcomes.
While we celebrate the International Romani Day, we must remember that much more has to be done to address this inequality issue. If there is a process to eliminate extreme poverty in Europe, then the Roma population has to be an important focus of that process.  

     Read more: Why we need to talk about Roma inclusion


Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Former Regional Director, Africa, Sustainable Development Practice Group

Nina Bhatt

Senior Social Scientist

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