Eurochild – how institutional support can be used to justify promoting racists…

20 Nov

April 2 – 2014 – Closing a chapter. A good step forward as Eurochild recognizes it made a mistake. It took some months but this is a good sign. Reading the recent posting about the Summit released by the Commission it remains clear that the European Commission continues to live in Viviane Reding’s dream world.

Dear colleagues from Roma civil society organisations,

With some delay, I wanted to come back to you regarding your message on the eve of our Annual Conference last year.  The issue has been given due attention in the Eurochild management board.

We acknowledge that we made a mistake to accept financial support & hosting of the conference dinner by Regione Lombardia Council (of which Lega Nord is one of the parties in the government coalition) – without ensuring visible accompanying messages that address their negative policies with respect to children’s rights – Roma & non-Roma.   Our hosts did use the event to push the Regional government to appoint a children’s ombudsman – something that was mentioned repeatedly during the conference.  We will continue to support this advocacy, since a Regional children’s ombudsman will be a significant step forward.  This should have been made clearer in the conference communication together with a more vocal challenge of their wider policies on children.  We recognize that without these accompanying messages, we could be seen to endorse their policies, – which you understand we do not.

With regards to your specific call for Roma experts & visibility in the programme for Roma, as stressed in my previous message, opportunities were available for Roma to put forward proposals during the event preparation.  But we will give this more attention this year (next conference is in Bucharest 26-28th November on Better Public Spending for Better Outcomes for Children & Families).

We continue to recognize the necessity of engaging with elected representatives within the hosting country / region regardless of their political colour.  However, we will be sure to use the opportunity to be more openly critical towards policies that are not aligned with the Eurochild values and policy positions.

Looking forward to seeing some of you at this week’s Roma summit.

Kind regards,

The Eurochild management board

In November 2013 I wrote

We received a letter from Eurochild. A nice one but our main point seemed to be completely missed. So here trying to make it clearer…

Dear Jana,

Thank you for your kind reply to our letter. I decided to make my point a bit clearer in response to your letter. You write :

“Apologies for the confusion over the speaker. Our situation is clarified below.”

There is no confusion about the speaker. Again here is one of the many incredible racist and xenophobic statements of Maroni

As for vigilante attacks on immigrants, that is what happens when Gypsies steal babies, or when Romanians commit sexual violence.”

The clarification reads :

“The Regione Lombardia gave sponsorship to the event – hence the fact that Roberto Maroni was on the list of speakers for the official dinner.  Finally he did not attend, but was attended by the assessore for youth & sports – who unfortunately also comes from the Liga Norte party.   We in no way condone the position of the party – & in particular the position of Mr Maroni.  His presence was a token of their institutional support.”

The fact that Maroni was on your lists of speakers is a blunder.

You can not justify it with the fact that you accepted a sponsorship of the event from the Regione Lombardia. 

 To make my point using a stronger example would be like the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) will accept a sponsorship from the neo-nazis in Europe and have their leader on the list of speakers for an ENAR Conference dealing with anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism.

I believe that the role of civil society is to take a stand against people like Maroni and to function as a watchdog against practices such as those deployed by his party. Rationalizing sponsorships from extremist parties is simply something we should not do. Eurochild is not a diplomatic mission or intergovernmental organisation therefore you can not just invite them and have a tiny disclaimer that you do not condone the position of the party.

The fact that you write you are committed to promoting the rights of Roma children is rather in contradiction with giving the opportunity of an extremist party with a horrendous record of discriminating Roma to speak at your conference. As long as you do not make a much stronger efforts to involve Roma organisations and experts within Eurochild (include Roma experts in the board, provide employment and internship opportunities to help the human resources capacity of Roma) you might risk to be seen as being involved in Roma issues just for ensuring funding for the organisation. It happens with other organisations and is a serious reason of frustration for many Roma activists.

 Indeed, all of us make mistakes. But if we do not acknowledge them there is no chance to amend them. I believe Eurochild has a very important role to play in Europe. We need to pressure both the EU institutions and member states to do a much better job when it comes to children wellbeing. Having “token” speakers such as Maroni to ensure “institutional support” is not the way to do it.

 I realise that the way I write doesn’t fit the “eurocratic” polite language and might be a bit out of the comfort zone of people that are used to eurotalk. But that doesn’t mean I will not try to do my best to help  Eurochild to achieve its goals in which indeed I believe.

 My very best wishes

Valeriu Nicolae
From: Jana Hainsworth <Jana.Hainsworth@eurochild.org>
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 20:14:54 +0000
To:
Subject: RE: Open letter to Eurochild regarding our efforts to promote the rights of Roma children

Dear colleagues,

Herewith a more considered response to your letter.  Apologies for the confusion over the speaker. Our situation is clarified below.

The Eurochild network promotes the rights and well-being of all children and young people in Europe.  We recognize Roma children and families experience daily violation of their rights.  We also recognize that without serious and committed intent to promote the rights of Roma children, we will perpetuate the cycle prejudice and poverty.    This message is clear in recent press releases and reports.

–          Our child rights manifesto to be launched tomorrow in the European Parliament Strasbourg (Universal Children’s Day – 20 November) makes a clear reference to promoting & protecting the rights of Roma children

–          Our recent Press Release and opinion piece learning from the Maria Rusev case

–          Last year’s report on implementation of the Roma inclusion strategies

–          A study on the situation of Roma children in Europe

–          Our Speak Up! project funded through the EU’s fundamental rights & citizenship programme on child participation involved Roma children & young people in Bulgaria, Hungary & Greece & traveller children in Ireland

The content of our annual conference was based on a programme advisory committee of several Italian organisations – members & non-members of Eurochild. We also had an open call for proposals for the workshops & forum of good practice.  It was unfortunate that we did not receive proposals from Roma organisations – and I’m sure this is in part due to our failure to reach out more effectively to them in the early stages of the event preparation.

The Regione Lombardia gave sponsorship to the event – hence the fact that Roberto Maroni was on the list of speakers for the official dinner.  Finally he did not attend, but was attended by the assessore for youth & sports – who unfortunately also comes from the Liga Norte party.   We in no way condone the position of the party – & in particular the position of Mr Maroni.  His presence was a token of their institutional support.

We are certainly very willing to explore how Eurochild can more effectively represent the interests of Roma children.   One way would be more participation of Roma organisations in membership of Eurochild – currently they only participate as members of members – for example within the National Network for Children in Bulgaria.   We would also be interested to further develop partnerships with Roma organisations particularly around children’s rights and children’s participation.

Looking forward to our on-going collaboration,

Jana

Jana Hainsworth – Secretary General

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