The illusion of doing well

21 Jun

Here the speech I planned to deliver at the Fundamental Rights Agency Forum today ( June 21). I managed to do it just partially.

We failed.

Collectively we failed.

Sure thing we are motivated, smart and trained enough to rationalize everything the way we want it.

We can pretend that things are much better than they were. We can say that in fact we avoided the coming to power of the extreme right wing and that the worst of the refugee crisis is over.

We can rightly talk about the decades of peace and prosperity that the EU project brought. About the amazing developments in Eastern Europe and the expansions of democracy in many countries. We can choose to see just the amazing acts of kindness and compassion of a few of us Europeans.

We can find hundreds if not thousands of reasons to feel good about ourselves.

But probably better and for sure more honest intellectually is to acknowledge we fail. We fail to protect and include the poorest, the most disadvantaged, the most vulnerable.  Their numbers are growing.

We are not an inclusive Europe . We could be but we are not. The fact that the gap between the rich and poor is increasing and reached numbers that we have never seen in the last century should be a serious reason of not just reflection but most important action. Focused on economic growth and security we seem unable to realise that we are going through a period of dissolution of human rights approach unprecedented for the last 70 years.

I was in Lebanon, in Turkey and Jordan. I worked or visited the refugee camps there. The lives of the people in the official and unofficial camps is as close as I can imagine to hell. Hundreds of thousands of innocent children live there and risk to become radicalize by abject poverty, racism and our indifference. Being apologetic towards OUR neo-Nazis while making sure we keep far away THEM, people running from war and psychotic killers is not the direction we should go towards.

Double standards that allow us on one side to find no link whatsoever between us and the European “lone wolves” that kill in the name of extreme right ideology while on the other side hold responsible more than a billion people for the killings perpetrated by a crazy few just because they share the same religion is intellectually dishonest if not plain disgusting.

Watch-dog NGOs are disappearing fast all over Europe. Dependent on short term projects financed by the EU and Member States the watch-dog side of the NGOs is dying or already dead. Afraid of the louder and louder extremist rhetoric the moderate voices of Europe are drawn into a sea of populist fear mongering demagogues.

Europe is generous. We give more than 50% of all financial aid in the world. But we do not seem to spend the money as well as we should. And is not just the refugee camps where money goes wasted.

In Romania we made many, many mistakes in the past. Throwing EU money at the Roma issues seemed to be the main logic behind past actions. It looked great. The report look great. The conferences and the materials produced look great.

We reported over 125.000 Roma people trained using EU money. The most optimistic evaluation estimate that less than 0.1% of those are now employed because of those trainings.

We wasted too much public money meant to target social inclusion and reported it as “positive” practices. Far too much money went in desk researches, conferences and other similar productions of hot words and embarrassingly little read and used but hugely expensive papers.

We were successful in creating an industry of paper production, “project” consultants and trainers but we failed catastrophically to address some of the worst problems of the most vulnerable groups. We helped the tourism industry and the hotels by financing far too many conferences, exchanges of positive practices, meetings of stakeholders, seminars and trainings while avoiding to assume responsibilities when it came to changes at the grassroots.

At the same time we almost destroyed the few existing watch-dog NGOs and witnessed at best a stagnation in the much needed development of the Roma civil society.

We can do a lot better in the future. We need to do better in the future. The fact that we see a growing support within the EU population towards extremists is not because people are stupid. It is more likely because we , human right activists, decent people and politicians become too afraid to speak up, too comfortable to reform and too lazy to really care.

And all these we can and we should change.

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